NEW YORK — Government officials in New York have developed a statewide plan to combat synthetic cannabinoids—man-made, psychoactive chemicals that target the same brain cell receptors as the main ingredient in marijuana.
The plan includes various prevention, education, treatment and community engagement efforts, as well as the addition of synthetic cannabinoids to New York’s controlled substance list. These initiatives aim to help remove synthetic cannabinoids from circulation, raise awareness of its dangers and provide guidance to healthcare providers on effective treatment and recovery services.
Known as fake weed, K-2, spice, OMG, Scooby Snacks, AK-47 and other street names, synthetic cannabinoids have effects that are often unpredictable and may sometimes be harmful or even life-threatening.
"These extremely dangerous and deadly substances are wreaking havoc in communities across the state, and we are stepping up efforts to ensure these drugs remain off the streets and out of our correctional facilities," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "With these new initiatives, we can further educate the public on the dangers of these drugs while also continuing to ensure that those who bring this scourge into our communities will be held fully accountable."
The state will launch listening forums in communities that have been affected by abuse of synthetic cannabinoids to increase awareness of its lethal effects. These forums will include representatives from the Department of Health, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Office of Mental Health, state police and more. They will also include synthetic-cannabinoid experts, community-based organizations, family representatives, people in recovery, and local government and law enforcement officials.
New York will also offer state agencies electronic toolkits that provide educational resources on synthetic cannabinoids, as well as paid media advertising in at-risk locations.
"We are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all New Yorkers against dangerous substances," said Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul, co-chair of the New York State heroin and opioid abuse task force. "This comprehensive agenda to combat synthetic cannabinoids, or K-2, will support wide-ranging services including education, prevention and treatment. We want to raise awareness about the dangers of K-2 and other substances, and make sure individuals and families have the resources they need for treatment and recovery."
New York isn’t the only region that has experienced outbreaks of synthetic cannabinoids. In March 2018, the Illinois and Indiana health departments deemed the substance unsafe and issued warnings about the products after several cases of severe bleeding from their use cropped up in each state. And from March 30 to April 18, 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Public Health received six cases of severe bleeding; half confirmed using synthetic cannabinoids beforehand, while the other 50% were “probable” to have used the substances.