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NYPD, DEA take down massive synthetic drug ring

The drug ring was capable of producing thousands of packages of synthetic cannabinoids, a dangerous cocktail of chemicals sprayed onto plant material and meant to mimic the effects of a marijuana high.

The psychoactive drug, also known as K2 or synthetic marijuana, has been known to produce unpredictable, and sometimes deadly, effects. The drugs have been responsible for 2,300 emergency-room visits in New York City over a recent two-month period.

Law enforcement officers seized around 300,000 “street-ready” packages of synthetic cannabinoids from 93 different New York City bodegas and delis and five suspected production warehouses, DEA spokeswoman Erin Mulvey told Business Insider.

The raid also yielded “three truckloads” of precursor chemicals and supplies capable of producing thousands more packages.

In addition, 10 individuals were arrested and indicted, including three who are suspected of being major players in the drug ring. If found guilty, each could face a maximum of 20 years in prison, The New York Times reports.

Mulvey believes the organization was a major player in the synthetic drug trade in New York City.

“I do believe they were one of the larger players in the New York synthetic cannabinoid scene,” Mulvey said. “They had a very significant amount of product and precursor chemicals to supply the city with millions of doses of synthetic cannabinoids.”

Mulvey noted that the DEA is still looking into the organization’s chemical supplier in China, as well as a money trail into foreign countries.

The operation was the culmination of a one-year DEA investigation into the drug ring, and makes good on NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s promise to crack down on the drug he calls “weaponized marijuana.” The drugs have become popular among the city’s homeless population due to their low cost and potency.

“This is a scourge on our society, affecting the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and our most challenged citizens,” Bratton said in a statement following the operation. “It affects teenagers in public housing, homeless in the city shelter system, and it’s quite literally flooding our streets. This is marketed as synthetic marijuana, some call it K2. It is sold by the names of Galaxy, Diamond, Rush, and Matrix. But its real name is poison.”

This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2015.

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