DC cracking down on synthetic marijuana after recent spike in overdoses

The mayor of D.C. says the city is getting tough on people who sell synthetic drugs.

Last week, FOX 5 was there as D.C. emergency crews rushed to help many people at the Community for Creative Non-Violence, the city's largest homeless shelter, who appeared to be high and sick.

A senior source inside Muriel Bowser's administration tells FOX 5 that the mayor will call the media together on Tuesday to discuss a plan to crack down on those who sell synthetic drugs.

One of the things being considered -- if stores are caught -- the police will have the power to shut that business down immediately.

City health officials are interviewing those who fell ill and reaching out to others who may not have gone to the hospital.

"We want people to be really concerned about these drugs because they can also have people experience things like heart attacks or strokes and permanent brain damage or even in the more acute phases -- comas," said LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health.

Mayor Bowser said she is not just worried about health problems. She is worried about what people may do on the drugs.

"People are calling it synthetic marijuana and it couldn't be further from that," she said. "We know that these synthetic drugs that people are smoking actually have hallucinogenic impacts more similar to PCP and it's very dangerous."

The Drug Enforcement Administration has banned ingredients used in synthetic marijuana, but manufacturers have swapped out ingredients to get around the law.

"What we are going to have to do when we look at our legislative process is look at things in terms of point of sale and restricting what can be sold and not just looking at the things from a perspective of human consumption," said Nesbitt.

Even more frightening, some people are mixing things with synthetic drugs. Health officials cannot rule out that was what happened to some of the people who got sick last week.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bowser is sending a stern message to those who sell the drugs.

"We are shooting out the word to all of our retailers if they are in the business of selling that illegal synthetic drug, we are stepping up our efforts to fight it," said Bowser.