Surge In K2 Overdoses Worries Brooklyn's Community Leaders

By Paul Gaita 09/14/18

"We've seen this area be an epicenter for K2. Whether it's a bodega or whether it's a crime syndicate. It will not be allowed in this community."

Brooklyn community leaders holding a press conference.
Brooklyn community leaders holding a press conference. Photo via YouTube

After five individuals were hospitalized in the same evening for allegedly overdosing on synthetic marijuana, community leaders and law enforcement in Brooklyn, New York announced a call for action to rein in the borough's ongoing problems with use of the drug.

Representatives from the City Council praised efforts by the New York Police Department (NYPD) for focusing their efforts on distribution rather than users, which has resulted in the closure of several bodegas that sell the drug—also known as Spice or K2—but noted that greater efforts to provide education, fair housing and treatment could make more lasting changes.

The overdoses that prompted the community response all took place in the morning of September 8, 2018, when five men overdosed on the same corner in the Bushwick neighborhood—an area dubbed "Zombieland" by residents because of the high incidence of K2 use there.

All five individuals, whom neighbors said had used synthetic marijuana, were listed in stable condition after being hospitalized; more than 100 people overdosed in a single weekend at that corner in May of 2018.

Speaking on September 10, 2018 in front of a bodega that had been closed by NYPD for selling synthetic marijuana, City Council member Robert Cornegy told the assembled crowd that while police efforts have curbed the availability of the drug and reduced the sheer number of overdoses, five was still a "horrible number," as High Times noted, and that more work was necessary to combat the K2 problem.

"We've seen this area be an epicenter for K2," he said. "Whether it's a bodega, whether it's an individual or whether it's a crime syndicate. It will not be allowed in this community."

Cornegy voiced appreciation for the collaborative efforts between community leaders, local officials and the police, which he said was the "first time" all three groups had worked together on such a borough-wide issue. He also expressed gratitude for police efforts to halt the spread of K2 by targeting bodegas that sold the drug, and for focusing their efforts on distributors instead of those who use it.

Information and increased resources were cited as a possible means of breaking the cycle of K2 abuse in Brooklyn. "Until we have an education system that allows people to achieve the highest in education, and where they can feel comfortable in affordable housing, you are going to have this kind of behavior," Cornegy told the crowd.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.