New York City's Health Department Would Like to Remind You Fake Weed Is Dangerous and Stupid

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Just don't.
New York City emergency rooms are seeing an outbreak of fake marijuana-related illnesses, according to the city's health department. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a warning on Sunday urging people not to buy or use "synthetic cannabinoids," which are often sold at head shops under names like K2, Spice, and Green Giant. The agency says it's gotten reports of 15 fake weed-related emergency room visits over the past two days, concentrated in East Harlem, Central Harlem and Chelsea.

Synthetic pot has been illegal in New York state since 2012, when Governor Andrew Cuomo banned it after a run of sometimes deeply hysterical stories on the drug's effects. But the dangers aren't entirely overhyped. Synthetic weed is made of an unpredictable blend of ingredients, and used by a particularly young and naive population: the health department says that, according to calls received by the city's Poison Control Department, most fake pot users are teenagers or young adults. The agency says it's seen a 220% increase in emergency room visits related to fake weed over this time last year.

The agency says, too, that the people heading to the ER over the past two days have experienced "severe adverse reactions" to the drug, though we don't know exactly what that means. We've contacted the health department for clarification; they're looking into it, and we'll update when we hear back.

If you happen to see fake weed for sale, the city asks that you call 311, who will report the information to the NYPD. They're reporting seeing the stuff under a variety of increasingly ludicrous brand names, including Smacked, Geeked Up, AK-47 and Wicked X. If you've taken some fake pot, you can and probably should call Poison Control, 1-800-222-1222 or 212-POISONS (212-764-7667).

As for real pot, about 18% of New York City ninth through 12th graders reported using the drug in the past month, according to a 2013 report. The city reports zero overdose deaths as a result of marijuana between 2000 and 2012.

The full press release from the Health Department is reprinted on the following page.

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