Gov. Cuomo, DOH warn against use of synthetic marijuana following death of Maryland man

Legislative Gazette file photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health are warning health care providers of outbreaks occurring in multiple states of patients with severe bleeding due to the consumption of synthetic marijuana.

These life-threatening incidents have been occurring in states such as Illinois, Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri. To date, no cases have been reported in New York state.

“The health and safety of New Yorkers is our number one priority,” Cuomo said. “While there have been no current reports of these symptoms in New York, we are asking public health officials to keep an eye out and to remind people that this poison is dangerous, unpredictable and seems to be getting more so with each passing year.”

Synthetic marijuana is marketed as legal and sold in colorful packets with street names such as K2, Spice and AK-47.

These packets typically consist of plant material coated by chemicals, which are supposed to mimic the effects of naturally grown marijuana. The packets are also believed to be contaminated with rat poison, according to the Department of Health.

Symptoms from the use of synthetic marijuana include bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding of the gums, bleeding out of proportion to the level of injury, vomiting blood, blood in urine or stool, excessively heavy menstrual bleeding, back pain and bleeding from the eyes or ears.

Earlier this week, an unidentified person from Central Maryland was hospitalized for extreme bleeding after using synthetic marijuana, making this the first case for the state. The patient was experiencing unusual bruising and bleeding from several parts of his body.

The cause of death of two males in their 20s and one male in his 40s has been linked to synthetic marijuana in Illinois earlier this week. Illinois public health officials say the number of people who have experienced severe bleeding after using synthetic marijuana has increased to 95 cases.

In 2016, the governor announced a new series of aggressive enforcement actions to combat the illegal sale of K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids.

Under current law, an owner of an establishment, as well as any other person possessing, distributing, selling or offering prohibited synthetic drugs for sale, will face a fine up to $500 and/or up to 15 days in jail. Civil penalties include a fine up to $2,000 per violation.

Since Cuomo announced the crackdown in 2016, State Police have made 13 arrests and took possession of more than 1,100 packets of synthetic marijuana.

“This disturbing outbreak proves yet again the dangers of using synthetic marijuana,” New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. “Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, we will continue our work to keep New Yorkers safe from this deadly substance.”