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How easy is it to get fake — but potent — weed? Our reporter had no problems at all

The Brooklyn Paper

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 dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at @dsmacleod.

Updated 12:00 pm, December 8, 2011: Includes a few more clauses to clarify. Also, don't try this at home.
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Reader Feedback

Bob from Bay Ridge says:
So, were you personally "testing" this stuff when you wrote that lousy story about the mentally disturbed old lady? And were you sharing with your editor who chose to publish those incredibly offensive photographs?
Dec. 7, 2011, 7:58 am
Joe Blow from Bay Ridge says:
Someone should have a talk with the owner of Sakman.
Dec. 7, 2011, 11:31 am
Bob from Bay Ridge says:
I always see kids smoke these herbs at the overlook at Owl's Head Park and at staircase of 76.
Dec. 7, 2011, 1:33 pm
Mo from Bay Ridge says:
if Department of Health can close down a restaurant for violation, then the store should also shut down for selling these synthetic herbs.
Dec. 7, 2011, 2:29 pm
Eric Jankiewicz from Bay Ridge says:
This story is backed up with lazy reporting and is very one sided-- have you just gotten out of the "Reefer Madness" portal? Check out http://www.thecrimereport.org/archive/2011-10-the-perils-of-sweet-lucy for actual reporting and not this propaganda.
Dec. 7, 2011, 8:13 pm
josef from downtown brooklyn says:
somehow, i am not surprised that a news corp organ like this would take a reactionary stance against an ambiguous substance. with only anecdotal evidence, you hop on the "criminalize it" bandwagon. Don't you people know your audience? something that calls itself the brooklyn paper should be all about legalization.
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:25 am
shah from east ny says:
how many ppl went to the hospital after drinking alcohol or even taking tylenol this year? I bet you its way more than 32. y not report on that?
Dec. 9, 2011, 12:19 pm
LOL from Slope says:
The high is intense but manageable. Salvia is much more intense and that is even easier to find legally. Alcohol has killed at least half a dozen people I knew personally, either through poisoning or car accidents. The "high" from alcohol is far more debilitating, and it is open-ended: you can easily overdose. After losing so many friends to alcohol, it's hard for me to get really excited about this writer's hangup. None of you folks who want to ban this stuff are serious people unless you also advocate banning alcohol, the most deadly drug in America. And you don't. None of you do. You are all Alkies. So stay out of my life and I will stay out of yours.
Dec. 22, 2011, 9:18 pm
Pothead from 18th ave says:
learn how to spell. my friends been smoking incense for months and he's just fine
May 30, 2012, 11:56 am
Stephanie says:
What do you people care what other people are smoking? Honestly if you decide to go and smoke potpourri thats your own business not anyone elses and why should smoke shops have to suffer just because theyre tryin to survive? And for the guy who wrote they shut down restaurants for less or whatever your an idiot maybe they should shut down liquor stores because people drink and drive or everywhere that sell cigarettes because people can get lung cancer. stop crying over a public forum and just dont smoke it.
Jan. 19, 2013, 4:07 pm
elliot burke from canada says:
I mixed four of the supposedly strongest fake weed as so dubbed togeather with salvia and pot together and bong hits I thought the buzz was alright but separate most of them don't give u any buzz at all. The same thing happened when would sell train track oil or summer savery to people who didnt know any better they acted weird and said they were high could we get more. As for my self none of these replace pot and one of these days I know I'll get cault with thc in my system causing me to lose a 100000dallar a year employment when r we going to legalizes it and stop my less brazen friends from using these unknow chems
June 10, 2013, 11:59 pm

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