This spice ain’t nice.
Bay Ridge delis sell a mysterious wacky weed that comes in bubblegum and cherry flavors, and is connected to hallucinations and seizures that have landed 32 tokers in the hospital this year, according to authorities.
The synthetic herb — known as “Spice,” “K2” and “potpourri” — is being sold in at local smoke shops and delis without a list of ingredients at stores patronized by teens, despite a federal ban on chemicals that mimic the high of marijuana, some of which are believed to be in the products.
It’s a recipe for disaster, says the city.
“There’s no doubt that this is a drug,” said Poison Control Center Director Bob Hoffman. “Could you die from this? Yes. I don’t know that any fatalities have been reported yet, but I don’t know that they would be.”
The drugs look similar to marijuana and are sold as an herb that is treated with chemicals, which stimulate the same areas of the brain as weed.
Federal investigators are probing companies and shops that sell the pseudo-drugs, with a blunt warning to manufacturers that they could be busted.
“There is a concern about copycat [synthetics],” said Drug Enforcement Agency agent David Levey. “We can prosecute under the Analog Act.”
We bought two varieties of the fake pot last week at Sakman Candy on Fourth Avenue between 68th and 69th streets, where a clerk turned us on to “Wicked XXX.” The $18 blend cost twice as much as other varieties, he said, but delivered a more potent punch, likely confirming the fears of city officials that the modified blends are just as dangerous.
An 18-year-old doper from Bay Ridge, who refused to give his name, had such a severe reaction to “Wicked” that he rushed to call an ambulance.
“I felt way, way too high, my entire body and insides hurt, and I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “I started getting too hot and took off my shirt and my tank top even though it was freezing out.”
Wicked XXX’s manufacturer, herbalmagics.com/“>Herbal Magics, claims that its products are not meant to be ingested, but copped the Fifth when asked to spill the seeds about its ingredients.
“We don’t give out that information,” commented a flack, directing us to the company’s website, which offered a sly nod to weed smokers with assurances of “eight different aromas … will convince even the most skeptical of bud-burning veterans,” and “the best herbal potpourri for an uncompromising laid-back experience.”
But real potheads are laying off the fake stuff.
“The high is eight times more than weed,” said an 18-year-old Borough Park toker, who swore off “spice” after trying it twice and realizing its potency. “It’s marketed as potpourri, but it’s only found in cigar shops and they don’t say that you’re supposed to smoke it, but they’re implying that you should.”
The hop-head said that his vision blurred, his memory lapsed and “everything was glistening,” while his girlfriend suffered a panic attack after trying it.
“I was pretty concerned as to what was inside of it,” he said. “When I looked it up, there was nothing on it except a couple of stories from people saying that they used it and ended up in the hospital.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration banned K2, synthetic marijuana and five other chemicals in Nov. 2010 amid reports of seizures, hallucinations and dependency linked to the fake pot. “It was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety,” the agency determined.
Until then, the imposter brands were sold in head shops and online as incense, side-stepping U.S. regulation because they was sold in packages stating that they were not for human consumption.
Fake “highs” are a trend compounded by the hookah lounge industry, which invites patrons to share flavored tobacco called “shisha” from a communal pipe in cafes called shisha bars or dens.
But, smoking a marijuana substitute just isn’t worth the risky toke, says an emergency medicine expert.
“You’re expecting to be mellow,” Dr. Anthony Scalzo, the medical director of the Missouri Poison Control Center who first reported a spike in K2 cases last year, told ABC News.
“Unfortunately, you’re not getting that. No one really sort of field tested these chemicals. We don’t even know where exactly this stuff is made.”
Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at @dsmacleod.