DC Council approves tougher penalties for synthetic drugs

FOX 5 was the first to bring you exclusive video showing several people overdosing on synthetic marijuana just blocks away from D.C. police headquarters. On Tuesday, emergency legislation was passed allowing the police chief to shut down District establishments that sell synthetic drugs.

These drugs, also known as K2, Spice, Bizarro, Scooby Snax, Zorro and Train Wreck, were definitely not as visible out on the streets on Tuesday as it has been in the past. Police are vigilant of the places that are known for previously selling the synthetic drugs.

Now, if a store is caught selling these synthetic drugs in D.C., they will have to pay the consequences. For a first violation, the business will be fined $10,000. In addition, the business faces the possibility of being shut down for four days by the police chief.

Despite the emergency legislation going through, John Cleveland, a case manager at the Community for Creative Non-Violence, said two people overdosed outside of D.C.'s largest homeless shelter on Tuesday.

"It's an everyday thing," he said. "Some days, it's maybe one, maybe two. Some days, it's three or four."

Cleveland said one man who is seen nearby the shelter is constantly under the influence. Less than two days ago, he was arrested for throwing metal clippers through wired glass and shattering the glass all over the employees.

"He must have threw it with a lot of force because it went through," said Cleveland. "Well, I say when they are smoking that, they get stronger."

Crews installed a sturdier material to protect employees, especially from people who are under the influence of synthetic drugs and turn violent.

"It is bad for people to be out here using," said D.C. resident Eric Shepcotk. "I don't support it, but at the same time, you can treat it like a mental illness as opposed to a crime."

Although users are not being arrested, the suppliers could face criminal penalty. It is a sanction insufficient in Cleveland's eyes.

"You can close down all the stores that you want to, but they will go to Maryland, Virginia or people will bring it to them," he said. "What you need to start doing is move the people out, so that people have nowhere to sell it. That will be a start.

"When you're moving people out and you're closing the stores, that will cause them to flee and go elsewhere."

Although the legislation has sanctions in place for merchants and their stores, there is still no legislation in the District that would penalize an individual caught selling these drugs out on the streets, which could end up being the larger problem for police.

Related stories:

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: 3 people overdose from synthetic drug in front of NE DC store

More people treated for apparent synthetic drug overdoses near DC shelter

DC mayor wants to shut down stores selling synthetic drugs

DC cracking down on synthetic marijuana after recent spike in overdoses

Spike in synthetic marijuana overdoses in DC

5 things to know about synthetic drugs being sold to teens

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