D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law emergency legislation giving the chief of police the authority to temporarily close businesses up to four days for selling synthetic marijuana.
A second offense could mean loss of license for the business.
City officials say synthetic drug use is leading to overdoses citywide as well as violent criminal behavior.
Mayor Bowser signed the legislation as elected officials, city workers and members of some of the communities hardest hit by drug use looked on.
"On the street, these drugs are often referred to as synthetic marijuana,” said Bowser. “But let me be clear, I don't want anybody to be fooled. These chemicals are nothing like marijuana and they can lead to terrible consequences including seizures, suicidal behavior, violence, criminal behavior and even death.”
Just a few weeks ago, FOX 5 watched as paramedics worked on as many as a dozen people who had overdosed on Bizarro, which officials say they had likely been smoking.
And on Thursday night, a FOX 5 informer walked into a Northeast D.C. convenience store and was able to purchase two packs of the synthetic drug for just under $9 each.
Ed Smith, president of the firefighter’s union, attended the signing. He said overdoses are taxing the system.
"This has just pushed over the edge,” he said. “We are already strained to the max and then you sprinkle this synthetic drug on the street and it’s just out of control. I would call it a crisis.”
On Friday morning, Smith said an engine company east of the river ran seven overdose calls before 11 a.m.
But as it stands now, if police arrest someone for possession of the stuff, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is dropping the cases.
"It’s a testing issue,” said Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham. “DEA does our testing. If we can establish through testing that synthetic cannabinoids exist in what we seize, then we can go back and charge the individuals.”
As it stands now, officials have no solid numbers on how prevalent the problem is because people locked up in the District are not tested for synthetic drugs.
A spokesman for pretrial services said it is very expensive and compounds in the material are ever-changing.