De Blasio administration officials rebuffed suggestions by multiple City Council members during a hearing on Monday that the spike in synthetic marijuana use throughout the city was linked to the criminalization of marijuana.
The Council mulled over testimony from city officials on three proposed bills aimed at ending the use and sale of the synthetic drug commonly referred to as K2.
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Various lawmakers pointed to the current laws on the books against marijuana as a possible reason for the 2,300 people sent to New York City emergency rooms between July and August alone.
Manhattan Councilman Corey Johnson, Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito all urged that the de Blasio administration look into how marijuana policy might be causing a demand for its synthetic double.
Elizabeth Glazer, director of Mayor Bill de Blasio's office of criminal justice, told the council members that marijuana legalization is "not something the administration supports."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office did not respond to Metro's request for comment on the link between K2 and marijuana laws.
"While I understand that today's hearing is not about the legalization of marijuana," Espinal said at the beginning of the hearing, "I want to express my belief that legalizing marijuana would go a long way toward dissolving the K2 market."
Johnson, who chairs the council's health committee, blamed outdated marijuana laws making synthetic drugs like K2 — which is undetectable by conventional testing — popular among certain crowds of New Yorkers.
Bronx Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson expressed concern over packaging of the synthetic product, which she feared might attract young New Yorkers.
However, a Health Department representative affirmed at the hearing that the majority of K2 users treated in emergency rooms appear to be men with a median age of 37.
As a result, multiple agencies are working to roll out an public service campaign specifically targeted towards people and public areas most affected by the K2 crisis without inadvertently attracting younger users.
Among the reforms proposed by the council is the criminalization of any substance marketing itself as synthetic marijuana, thereby avoiding the need to play catch up with manufacturers.
Gov. Cuomo, who has previously dismissed any proposals to legalize or decriminalize the drug outright, recently expanded state laws against K2 by banning more ingredients manufacturers use to work around already banned chemical ingredients.