SCHUMER REVEALS: NYC BODEGAS & SYNTHETIC DRUG RINGS ARE USING THE INTERNET TO STOCK UP ON DANGEROUS DRUGS BUT DEA DOESN’T HAVE THE RESOURCES TO SHUT WEBSITES DOWN; THIS WEEK’S SYNTHETIC DRUG BUST PROVES FEDS MUST SHUTDOWN WEBSITES & PREVENT CREDIT CARD SALES TO DEALERS & BODEGAS; SENATOR URGES SPECIAL UNIT BE SET UP IN DEA TO LOCATE & STOP SALES ON THE WEB THAT ARE FUELING ‘CRISIS’
DEA Needs To Police Illegal Synthetic Sites With Fine-Tooth Comb & Set Up Special Unit To Survey Internet, Notify Credit Card Companies Of Bad Actors & Then Shut These Sales Down
Countless Websites, Many In China, Are Selling Illegal Synthetic Drugs Like “K2” & “Scooby Snax” Online; Drugs Make Their Way To NYC Dealers, Bodegas; Without Law Enforcement Involvement, Credit Card Sales Go Through
Schumer: Feds Must Take Swipe At Synthetic Drug Online Sales Over Credit Card Networks
Following a massive synthetic drug bust in New York City this past week, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, today, called on the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to launch a special investigative unit dedicated to cracking down on the sale of synthetic marijuana. Specifically, Schumer is urging the DEA to create a special unit to police vendors currently using websites to sell illegal synthetic drugs online and to notify credit card companies and other payment processors such as PayPal and Venmo of bad actors. Schumer explained that, while it is illegal to sell or distribute synthetic marijuana in New York City and New York State, young people as well as dealers and bodega owners easily purchase synthetic drugs, like “K2” and “Scooby Snax,” on the Internet with little to no consequence. Those involved in this week’s synthetic drug bust illegally obtained the chemicals from China and Schumer said that it was likely via the internet. Schumer said that, with the startling rise in synthetic drug use and abuse, the federal government should make every effort to identify and keep a record of which websites are selling the illicit drugs and work with local law enforcement as well as credit card companies to halt sales. Schumer went on to say that credit card companies should dedicate necessary resources to receiving and acting on this information as quickly as possible and block the sale of dangerous drugs before they get shipped.
Schumer is also urging the DEA to increase transparency by publishing information on known and emerging synthetic drug brands that have been found to contain illegal substances on the internet.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, in a recent two-month period, the use of synthetic marijuana resulted in 2,300 emergency room visits in New York State alone. Across the nation, synthetic marijuana-related phone calls made to poison centers in the first four months of this year increased by 229% compared to the same period last year, and synthetic drug-related emergency room visits in New York State have increased tenfold. Schumer said that this dramatic increase—one that is taking place despite a federal crack-down—can also be attributed to synthetic drug retailers and makers who are now developing synthetic drugs with new chemical compounds that are not currently on the DEA’s controlled substance list.
“Despite efforts in New York to crack down on synthetic drugs, the recent drug bust along with the startling uptick in ER visits shows that these dangerous chemical compounds and these illegal synthetics are still making their way onto store shelves and into the hands of New Yorkers and that’s in part due to internet sales,” said Senator Schumer. “With countless websites popping-up and selling illegal synthetic drugs like ‘K2,’ the DEA must set up a special unit dedicated to identifying and investigating dangerous websites that have tragically invigorated the synthetic drug epidemic. I am urging the DEA to take a swipe at synthetic drug sales online and provide credit card companies with the information they need to block transactions from taking place on these dangerous sites before these drugs make their way onto our streets.”
Synthetic drugs are often a toxic combination of chemicals made to mimic 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. Schumer explained that these drugs are very powerful, react differently to each person, and often come with severe side effects that could lead to almost instant death. These drugs are often made to seem inviting and harmless – sold under names like “K2,” “Scooby Snax,” “incense,” “spice,” etc. – but in actuality they are dangerous chemical concoctions, and this false advertising may entice users – especially young people. According to the Congressional Research Service, the effects of synthetic drugs ranges from nausea to drug-induced psychosis, even death. This makes the harmful nature of the drugs unpredictable and unsafe for human consumption.
While it is illegal to sell or distribute synthetic marijuana products in New York City and New York State, Schumer explained that teens and young people can easily purchase synthetic drugs out of state or on the Internet with little to no consequence. Specifically, sites like www.organicspiceblend.com; www.spice4fun.com; www.spice4high.com; www.theofficialk2incense.com and more, provide easy access to synthetic drugs and are likely a go-to supplier for both young adults and bodega owners who resell the products. According to the New York Times, China has been the primary source for new synthetic drugs.
This past week, an historic synthetic marijuana ring was exposed and ten people were listed in a federal indictment for allegedly manufacturing synthetic marijuana using chemical compounds from China and distributing them to bodegas across New York City. Law enforcement officials seized $30 million worth of the product, including approximately 275,000 packets of the product. Approximately 90 bodegas across New York were raided for selling K2.
Schumer has long supported measures to crackdown on synthetic marijuana use across the country. Schumer explained that, between the years 2009 and 2012, synthetic drug abuse was on the rise. In response, Schumer fought hard in Congress to pass the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 that banned many forms of these chemicals and enhanced DEA authority to ban new ones that emerge. As part of the legislation, Congress used its legislative authority to place over 20 chemical compounds that had been used in synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the classification for the most dangerous drugs. The legislation gave the DEA enhanced authority to temporarily place uncontrolled substances that pose an imminent hazard to public safety, like these synthetic chemicals, into Schedule I of the CSA.
Schumer said the DEA is currently investigating approximately 300 of these compounds, which have been found in synthetic drugs across the country, but the DEA has yet to add the majority of them to the list of controlled substances. Earlier this year, Schumer called on the DEA to quickly ban more of the nearly 300 dangerous chemical compounds on its list that are used to make synthetic drugs before the problem becomes more rampant.
Schumer has also been working to pass the Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act, which is designed to further combat synthetic drugs. Schumer explained that this legislation, authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would establish an inter-agency special investigative unit of scientists and experts to create a list of controlled substance analogues, and prohibits the importation of any controlled substance analogue. Schumer said that synthetic drug makers will continue to try to produce chemical compounds that skirt around federal law, and as a result, legislation like this is needed to provide the DEA with more authority to prevent new synthetics that are bound to crop up in the years to come. In the midst of this legislative effort, Schumer adds today’s push and says the DEA could establish the new unit he is calling for almost instantaneously. Schumer said that it would have a broad and positive impact in the war against these synthetic drugs and dangerous new chemicals.
Schumer’s letter to Acting DEA Administrator Rosenberg appears below:
Dear Administrator Rosenberg:
I write to once again shed light on an issue that is harming communities in New York and across the country. Synthetic drugs, extremely dangerous chemical compounds with harmful effects, have become increasingly accessible. Today, they are easily purchased online and in convenience stores. Working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2012, Congress used its legislative authority to place over 20 chemical compounds that had been used in synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 811, the Attorney General has the authority (which has been delegated to the DEA Administrator) to temporarily place an uncontrolled substance into Schedule I if it is deemed to present an imminent hazard to public safety. Congress also expanded this emergency scheduling authority to more quickly ban new combinations that may be used to similar effect. Despite the DEA's constant efforts to emergency schedule controlled substance analogues, these drugs continue to be marketed and accessible to young people.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, in a recent two-month period, the use of synthetic marijuana resulted in 2,300 emergency room visits in New York State alone. Across the nation, synthetic marijuana-related phone calls made to poison centers in the first four months of this year increased by 229% compared to the same period last year, and synthetic drug-related emergency room visits in New York State have increased tenfold. Law enforcement officials in NY and across the nation agree this has become a public health crisis near epidemic proportions.
The high demand for synthetic substances such as “Spice” or “K2” coupled with the proliferation of chemical compounds available online, has increased the need for the government to swiftly implement measures to identify websites that offer these dangerous products and coordinate with payment processing companies to thwart these vendors' ability to sell synthetic drugs online. Earlier this week, your agents dismantled a large international ring responsible for manufacturing synthetic marijuana with more than 200 kilograms of chemicals imported from China and purportedly purchased online. These ring leaders then packaged and distributed the drug to dozens of NYC bodegas. NYC law enforcement seized more than 275,000 packets of the finished product. To date, more than 90 bodegas were found to openly sell or market the illicit substance.
While recent law enforcement actions will significantly impact the sale of these dangerous substances in stores, the drugs are still readily available online for wholesale and retail.
This is why I ask that the DEA create a special investigative unit tasked with identifying and shutting down online retailers of synthetic drugs. In this new modern marketplace, it is critical for experts from the DEA to sweep the web seeking out and investigating online purveyors of illegal synthetic drugs and then coordinate with payment processors to ensure that sales on these websites are shut down. It is particularly important to stop the flow of money to these drug traffickers, therefore I encourage you to create open lines of communication with the credit card companies and other payment processers, such as PayPal, to ensure that these companies are aware of the websites engaged in the sale of illegal synthetic drugs that offer the ability to process payments over their network and are provided with critical information to be able to block online sales on those sites. I also urge you to provide more information to the public about these illegal drugs sold under child-friendly brand names such as "scooby snax" by publishing information on known synthetic drug brands and packaging found to contain illegal substances on the web.
The federal government must do all it can to keep these harmful compounds off the streets and out of the hands of our citizens. Thank you for your resolve to combating this issue and I look forward to hearing from you.