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Press Release

Press Release # 009-12
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sam Miller/Chanel Caraway: (347) 396-4177

New York City Health Department Issues Order Banning Sale and Distribution of Synthetic Marijuana

Department Will Notify Retailers by Mail, Visit Stores Starting Today
New Yorkers Strongly Cautioned Against Using Dangerous Product

March 29, 2012 – New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley today issued an order immediately banning the sale of so-called synthetic marijuana, which has been linked to increased heart rate, hypertension, seizure, loss of consciousness as well as acute renal failure and death. The drugs are sold as incense or potpourri under names such as “Mr. Nice Guy”, “K2”, “Spice” “Galaxy Gold”, and “Smiley Dog”.

The Department’s order cites a similar order issued today by the State Health Department.

“The drugs that are sold as ‘synthetic marijuana’ are new and poorly understood, but reports from poison control centers show that they are toxic and can be very dangerous,” Commissioner Farley said. “Because they are sold in stores, people may believe they are safe, and use of these drugs is increasing rapidly in New York City. With this order we are getting them off store shelves and telling everyone in New York City to never use them.”

Calls about health effects from the use of synthetic marijuana to New York City’s Poison Control Center have increased in recent years, rising from 4 in 2010 to 71 in 2011 and 44 so far in 2012.  About a third of these have occurred among children. In some cases, symptoms have been minor, including shortness of breath, dizziness and vomiting, and in others they have been more severe, including high blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures.

“Synthetic cannabinoids are not marijuana,” Dr. Robert Hoffman, Executive Director of the New York City Poison Control Center, said. “They are unique drugs made in a lab that have one effect in common with marijuana but potentially many other different effects. They are sold as herbal products, giving users a perception of safety, but in fact they are toxic drugs sprayed on plant leaves.”

As a result of the Commissioner’s order, retailers will not be allowed to sell or distribute synthetic marijuana. Those who fail to comply could be subject to fines and other penalties. The Department will begin delivering the order to stores today and mailing the order to some 10,000 retailers next week.

If you suspect that someone is having an adverse reaction to synthetic marijuana, take the person to a doctor if it does not appear to be an emergency or call 911.

The Health Department urges New Yorkers who see synthetic marijuana for sale to report this to 311, which will send the information to the Department’s investigators.