Spike in synthetic marijuana overdoses in DC

A fire official says several people staying at a District of Columbia homeless shelter have been hospitalized after smoking synthetic marijuana.
D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department spokesman Tim Wilson says several people who smoked the synthetic marijuana Friday afternoon near the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter, the city's largest homeless shelter, became ill a few hours later.
Wilson says officials were called around 2 p.m. to the shelter at 425 Second St. NW and that emergency crews transported at least seven people to an area hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Wilson says all were expected to survive. A few others were evaluated on the scene.

"Synthetic drugs are illegal and dangerous," said Mayor Muriel Bowser. "These drugs present a clear danger to the public. My Administration is committed to working with all relevant government agencies, residents, community organizations and the Council to crack down on the distribution and consumption of these dangerous synthetic drugs."

FOX 5 found a packet of synthetic marijuana called "Bizarro" on the ground. Fire officials say they believe this particular brand is responsible for the overdoses.

An admitted user said someone from New York was selling it around a homeless shelter at 2nd and D Street, NW.

Synthetic marijuana usually is non-marijuana plant material sprayed with cannabinoids and marketed under brand names like Spice, K2 and Scooby Snax.

Many brands say "not for human consumption" on the label.

The effects of consuming these products include an altered mental state, anxiety, paranoia, irregular heartbeat, seizures and death. These drugs can render a person to be incoherent, disorderly, aggressive and unconscious.

Residents in the District who are concerned about a person who may be using synthetic marijuana, should call the Department of Behavioral Health's 24-7 Access Helpline at 1-888-793-4357. Call 911 if you encounter someone who appears to be overdosing from the drug. More information about synthetic marijuana and its harmful effects can be found at www.k2zombiedc.com. Anyone with information about the illegal sale of these drugs is asked to call the Metropolitan Police Department at (202) 727-9099. Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to the department's TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411.

In April 2014, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) passed regulations that allow the District to revoke business licenses of establishments that sell or possess synthetic drugs based on the packaging, pricing, location and labeling of the products.

A statement sent to FOX 5 from the Metropolitan Police Department said:

"We identified synthetic drugs; like those responsible for the incidents at the shelter today, as one of the top 5 threats we face in public safety over the next several years. The threat is increasing each day that we lack adequate laws to deal with it. We will focus on keeping our community safe but this is fast becoming a public health crisis that must be dealt with from all sides. We have officers working in the immediate area of the shelter to provide more presence, and will continue to work with DC Protective Services to address the issues around the building."


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