Synthetic marijuana has become very popular among teens and adults because it can be purchased over the counter for as little as $5 for small packets. The product is also sold under the names Dank, Spice, AK-47, and other descriptive titles. The drug is not natural and is often some type of plant material sprayed with chemicals or packets of a crystal powder that can be smoked or sprinkled on tobacco. The drug is a mixture of various substances that are designed to bind to the receptors in the brain that are stimulated by THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that causes a high. However, there is no set standard on the potency of synthetic marijuana and users can suffer extreme anxiety, confusion, paranoia and hallucinations. It is estimated that since 2015 in New York City alone, at least 6K people went to emergency rooms suffering from the effects of the drug and at least two people were confirmed dead from overdosing on synthetic marijuana.
In July 2016, there was a mass overdose on the streets of New York. Police and first responders replied to calls of victims passing out and unresponsive after allegedly ingesting the drug sold at a nearby Big Boy Deli. According to one media outlet, the store is well-known in the community for selling the product. When police arrived, the scene was described as something out of the TV show “The Walking Dead.” Dozens of mostly young Black males wandered the streets zombie-like with many unconscious on the ground and losing control of their bladder and bowels. Residents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood claim that K2 use in public is becoming blight on their community. It is now being revealed that police have traced the drug not to K2 but to another synthetic marijuana brand known as AK-47 24 Karat Gold. The drug is 80 times more powerful than grown marijuana and the compound was most likely made. Shockingly, the chemical compound was created and patented by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in 2009 as Amb-fubinaca. The company did nothing with the patent and it is believed that Chinese companies researched the patent and produced the compound. According to law enforcement, the drug costs about $1,950 to $3,800 per kilo to make and can generate profits as high as $500K. The drug can be purchased online through illicit websites like DarkWeb.