DC Passes Emergency Law To Combat Synthetic Drug Violence

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District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an emergency law Friday to immediately halt sales of synthetic drugs in the city after a month-long violent streak attributed to the drugs.

A recent college graduate on his way to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends was brutally stabbed to death in broad daylight by a man suspected to be high on synthetic drugs. The horrific event finally spurred Bowser to take action.

The two were on a train headed for downtown D.C. when Jasper Spires tried to steal Kevin Sutherland’s cellphone. The two struggled before Spires punched Sutherland several times in the face and stabbed him nearly 40 times before ultimately darting off the train and into the holiday crowds.

Spires was found by police the following day after a city-wide manhunt.

The drugs are often referred to as synthetic marijuana and frequently packaged under brand names such as K2, Scooby Snax, Bizzaro, or Spice. Bowser said the synthetic drugs are potent hallucinogens.

“I have issued a fair warning to business owners who continue to sell and distribute these dangerous drugs” said Bowser in a statement. “Beginning today, any business that possesses synthetic drugs will face harsh penalties for the first offense and will lose their license after a second offense.”

The new law allows district officials to shut down any business — typically liquor stores and gas station — caught selling the synthetic drugs, which are supposed to produce a high similar to marijuana, but instead have been known to launch people on violent rampages.

“The entire community has been impacted by the increase in availability of these drugs. Our message today is clear: If you are selling synthetic drugs in this city, we are going to shut you down,” police chief Cathy Lanier said in a statement.

Murders in D.C. are up nearly 20 percent over the same period last year, and police believe it can be attributed to the high number of people using synthetic drugs.

D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue said previously that almost 40 percent of the people arrested for violent crimes so far this year have had the synthetic drugs in their systems.

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