Nearly 8,000 Bags of Highly Dangerous Synthetic Cannabinoids Seized In Multi-Agency Operation At Locations Around 125th Street

Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Has Documented A Significant Rise In Emergency Department visits Due To Its Illegal Sale

Speaker Mark-Viverito Had Led A Multi-Agency Walking Tour Of Area In The Spring to Lay Out Community Concerns

NEW YORK – On Thursday July 2nd, at Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s request, a multi-agency inspection operation was conducted for locations thought to be selling synthetic marijuana (synthetic cannabinoids) centered around 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. Participating in this operation were: NYPD, the NYC Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Representing the NYPD were Patrol Borough Manhattan North, the 25 and 28 Precincts, and the Civil Enforcement Unit.

The operation came after Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito led a multi-agency tour of the 125th Street area in the spring to lay out community concerns about the selling and distribution of synthetic marijuana. Five locations were inspected. All had previously been served with the DOHMH Commissioner’s order directing the discontinuance of the sale of synthetic marijuana after DOHMH documented a significant rise in emergency department visits due to its illegal sale. All are licensed to sell tobacco products.

Details of the Operation:
Synthetic marijuana was recovered at two of the locations. A total of nearly 8,000 bags of this substance were recovered, packaged for retail sale under a variety of names. An arrest for a violation of Penal Law Section 220.60, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance with the Intent to Sell (5th degree), was made at one location, when 5 bags of Khat and 5 Viagra pills were recovered. Five teams executed the five inspections simultaneously. Each team consisted of a DCA Inspector, a DOHMH Inspector, three Deputy Sheriffs, one NYPD Sergeant, one NYPD Civil Enforcement Attorney, and three NYPD Police Officers. There were no incidents during the operation.

Speaker Mark-Viverito said: “These drugs have no place in our communities – period. Synthetic cannabinoids are highly dangerous and I want to thank Commissioner Bratton, the NYPD, the NYC Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their swift response to the community’s concerns. This operation was the culmination of many months of coordination and is a clear example of how we’re continuing to build bridges between the NYPD and the communities they serve.”

Commissioner Bratton said: “We were pleased to collaborate with our government partners in conducting this joint operation, intended to address the public health threat posed by synthetic marijuana. Those who sell this dangerous product should now be even more aware of exactly how seriously this criminal behavior will be treated, and we welcome the help of our elected officials and members of the public in getting the word out.”

“Emergency department visits for synthetic cannabinoids – or K2 as it is commonly known – continue to grow, which is why we joined forces with the NYPD, the Sheriff’s Office, and Consumer Affairs to inspect several stores in East Harlem suspected of selling the drug,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “Synthetic marijuana can cause dangerous health effects such as anxiety, agitation, confusion, and seizures. It is neither safe nor natural.”

“We thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for spearheading this important initiative to combat the sale of synthetic marijuana,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Council and our sister agencies on this important public health and safety issue in order to ensure that the businesses licensed by us as tobacco retailers are not selling these products and that our communities are kept safe.”

Supervising the operation were:
Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner, Civil Enforcement Unit; Inspector Douglas Rolston, PBMN; Deputy Inspector Thomas Harnisch, 25 Pct. Commanding Officer; Captain Kathleen Walsh, 25th Pct. Executive Officer; Attorney 4 Scott Weiss, Executive Officer, Civil Enforcement Unit; Sergeant John Toscano, 25th Pct. FIO; Sergeant Francisco Lopez, 28 Pct.; James Grayson, Chief Investigator. NYC Sheriff; and Thomas Merrill. General Counsel, DOHMH.