“They seem fazed, gone, and on something other than weed”

ch metro

Back in June a reader wrote:

“Has anyone noticed the young and older men around the Potbellys in COLUMBIA HEIGHTS? They seem “fazed”, “gone”, and on something other than weed. What are they on? What are police or community agencies doing to help these men?”

Sadly it appears to be the synthetic marijuana we’ve been hearing so much about. A reader sends this story from NBC Washington earlier today:

“Synthetic Drug Use Suspected Near Columbia Heights Metro Station

More than a dozen people suspected of using dangerous synthetic drugs were treated in D.C. on Friday — including four people believed to have overdosed near the Columbia Heights Metro station, according to sources within the D.C. Fire and EMS Department.”

74 Comment

  • from the linked article: “We know that when we arrest people for violent crimes, almost 40 percent have synthetic drugs in their system.” That is startling!

    • Interesting — how does one test form metabaloids of substances we can’t quite define?

  • Wow, yes– I noticed this while eating pizza sitting at Pete’s window on Saturday. Older guy clearly hands younger guy something. Younger guy disappears for a minute and comes back looking like a zombie. Older guy snickers. All this in front of lots of people- adults, families, kids coming and going. No fear on the users’ part. It was so brazen, so eery. I guess this explains it.

    • i ate lunch at this potbellys a few weeks back, and saw them. i just assumed it was heroin. i thought synthetic weed made people aggressively dangerous, not sedated.

  • it’s called pcp. and they aren’t fazed. they are lunched.

    • I Dont Get It

      Don’t you have to smoke PCP? I was on a jury on a two day PCP trial so therefore I’m an expert.

  • Always lots of mess going down by that Metro station. I have seen people exchanging synthetic weed there in recent days. Don’t know the brand, it is in the pink baggie with the superman “S” logo on it. People are drugged out by that station constantly, but I wouldn’t blame it all on synthetic weed. Probably is a number of different things.

  • And I also don’t know how you could go by that corner/use that metro entrance and NOT notice it. Every day there are zombies or guys yelling unintelligible gibberish at inanimate objects (and no, I don’t mean the Black Israelites…at least they arent obviously out of their mind on something). Guarantee that at least one of the nearby markets is selling the synth. marijuana…

  • Guarantee it’s not synthetic marijuana. People have used that stuff for years and it’s bad but certainly not to the extent that its now being blamed for all the ills in our society. Either heroin or good old fashioned PCP.

    • +1. As someone who sat on a DC Grand Jury for 3 horrible months, listening to specific details of drug cases/crimes/arrests, this sounds like a good hypothesis.

    • It’s synthetic pot, but they are spiking it with PCP or bath salts, its called trainwreck. Most appropriate name ever.

  • Is the purpose of using synthetic drugs to avoid a positive drug test potentially set off by marijuana? If so, could relaxing testing laws for those on parole, etc. in lockstep with legalization mitigate the demand for synthetics?

    • Perhaps for some…for others, it is just a cheap, easily accessible, and “legal” high. Not sure relaxing testing for parolees is the best way to solve the problem.

  • Funny thing is there are always cops about half a block down on 14th street by 7 11 but I have very rarely seen them do much with people obviously under the influence nearer to the Metro station. My expectations of the cops in DC are pretty low, I figure they’ll pretty much let it slide as long as those on drugs aren’t attacking people or aren’t collapsing and have spasms on the ground/something to that effect. It sucks.

    • +1. It’s absolutely ridiculous. The police can’t tell which users are liable to be dangerous, and of course those people are more likely to keep a lid on violent tendencies when there are police within sight. So what are the rest of us supposed to do? MPD needs to start putting these guys in the “drunk tank” (the Scooby tank?) when they are disorderly – unless the Bowser administration wants to preside over a return to the 80s and 90s.

      • Or go all German and have lots more plain clothes officers stationed around.

      • justinbc

        It would help if there were more clear laws on the books for them to actually be able to enforce.

        • Synthetic drugs are illegal. Disorderly conduct is illegal. Blocking sidewalks is illegal. Enforcing these laws (not to mention those covering more severe offenses like assault) should cover the vast majority of the objectionable behavior that I’ve seen (and that most others describe).

          • justinbc

            Ah, I didn’t hear about the Mayor signing that new law. No excuse then.

          • I’m not sure the new law makes the use of synthetic marijuana illegal. I thought it just made it illegal for stores to sell it.

          • Yes, but it’s far easier to assume that the cops are lazy than to actually sit down and read DC criminal code ourselves.

          • I’m not terribly knowledgeable about D.C. criminal law or chemistry, but if you read the controlled substances law it looks as though synthetic marijuana is covered. There are several parts that could apply, but especially: “Synthetic Tetrahydrocannabinols: Chemical equivalents of the substances contained in the plant, or in the resinous extractives of Cannabis, and synthetic substances, derivatives, and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity such as the following” (http://dccode.org/simple/Title-48/Chapter-9/ – under “Schedule II”).
            Someone correct me if I’m wrong, though.

          • Also, my understanding is that the new regulation makes it easier to shut down BUSINESSES selling synthetics – but that synthetics themselves were already illegal and that they actually strengthened the law in 2012 or 2013 so that things like Spice ought to be covered (there’s a WAMU article out there on it). So unless I’m mistaken, a lack of laws prohibiting this stuff isn’t the problem. That’s not to say that people aren’t using other things, and we really don’t know for sure at this point that the uptick in violent crime (or some portion of it) is attributable to synthetics. But you’d hope that the Mayor and MPD would err on the side of preserving public safety until we figure this out – especially after the NoMA incident.

          • My understanding is that these drugs come out of a few enormous laboratories in China. Can’t our government work with the Chinese to shut these facilities down? This is not like marijuana or cocaine, which are both cultivated in a million different places and are therefore virtually impossible to stop. Shutting down a few large factories would do a world of good.

  • Operating in broad daylight yet the cops do nothing. Not acceptable.

    • I once heard a group of transit police discussing how to handle the folks outside the entrance. The new guys seemed eager to go break things up, and the vets were explaining how the transit police and mpd have a turf war over jurisdiction so it just results in a no mans land situation.

  • The park across from DCity at the corner of Florida and North Cap, aka Scooby Snax Square, has the same problem.

    • It’s not just synthetic marijuana. Dudes on that corner openly sell dippers (Newports dipped in PCP) all the time.

      • tonyr

        Newports? That’s low rent.

        • I Dont Get It

          That’s also what I learned in the PCP jury trial I was on–Newports. Apparently it’s a DC thing.

          • From 3rd Bass:
            Deceivers, stupefied through fable
            Say Let’s Make a Deal at the dinner table
            Put you on tour, put your record on wax (“Trust me!”)
            Sign your life on the X
            You exit, x-off, but what you really get:
            A box of Newports, and Puma sweats (“Damn!”).

  • Yeah, none of this is new… I don’t know if you can pin it on synthetic weed rather than other drugs. On certain fun days what look like high schoolers will be publicly drinking there, too.

  • I saw a couple of dealers in broad daylight selling outside of Potbelly and reported them – they were openly counting their cash as well. MPD line officer called and wanted every detail possible so they could catch or deter them. They’ve been stationing officers in the plaza and parking cruisers there – report what/where/when you see them so MPD can do their job and stop them…

    • I told two MPD officers standing in front of Five Guys that a group of men were dealing drugs on the corner of Irving and Hiatt. The officers looked in the direction that I indicated, asked me to describe those involved (it’s very awkward to tell a black police officer that it’s a group of black people selling drugs), and then proceeded to stand there. I left when it became apparent that nothing would happen. They couldn’t get motivated to go less than two blocks to bust people dealing right in front of a school.

      • The officer I spoke to was very interested in the details of the drugs they were selling – it was obviously not marijuana. I also couldn’t give a very good description of the dealers, so he focused on the small details of what I did recall. If you think it’s the hard stuff, report it, and not just to the foot patrols – for all we know, they might not be permitted to leave their post unless something deadly happens.

        • They’re just placating you, Mr. Met. You know, the same way to used to pretend to listen to your Mom and Dad, and then just did whatever you wanted. Except in this case, MPD is just doing the “nothing” that keeps those crime stats looking good. Thanks Cathy!!

  • It’s possible that the police let people outside of the CoHi stop continue to take drugs there because they know exactly where the drug users are. If they crack down then the drug users could spread out to other areas, thus making it harder to patrol. If one of the users causes trouble outside the stop it’s very easy to get officers there quickly and to round everyone up. Not that this is the best approach, but I have a feeling that this is what the officers are doing on purpose.

  • This is K2 in action. The reason they are so brazen about it is because its technically not illegal. Instead of smoking a jay and just taking too long to order a sandwich they smoke that crap and try to eat people.

    It’s also sold over the counter at bodegas for the cheap under cute names like Scooby Snax and stuff like that. Just be careful out there and if you are an actual weed smoker be sure to watch whatever is being rolled into your stuff.

    Be safe out there.

    • I’m pretty sure Time Warner didn’t license Scooby Doo for synthetic drugs so that part can’t be legal.

  • I’ve never done or bought drugs, so can someone explain to me what’s the appeal of this synthetic marijuana stuff (or PCP or whatever these guys are on) over the real stuff? I doubt it’s the drug test thing, since these dudes probably don’t care (unless they’re on probation or something). Is it that much cheaper or easier to get? Now that the penalties for marijuana are so much lower and you can smoke it inside as much as you want, why bother with this stuff?

    On another note, I saw one of the dumbest ads warning against synthetic drugs. It was just a girl in zombie makeup staring into the camera and said something along the lines of, these drugs will turn you into a zombie. If I was some idiot kid, that actually sounds pretty cool

    • General Grant Circle

      Unless you are a researching pyschonaut (like Shulgin – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Shulgin ) I do not see the appeal of the synthetic crap over the tout naturel either. But I suspect the reason is that, despite the semi-legal nature of weed in the city, it is still much more difficult and expensive to get then going in to your local corner store.

      And yeah, those ads are made me do a double take when I saw them. Although I do not think they made them look appealing, to each their own.

    • Those ads are so so so awful.

    • Because it’s cheap, “legal”, and easier to get then marijuana.

    • cheap and potent. dead end drug for dead end users. supposedly crappy and short lived high nothing like even low quality weed. quasi legal because packaged as “not for human consumption”. I don’t know how potpourri smokes but I wouldn’t consume that either. supposedly it is favored for its ability to pass drug tests for parolees and the like.

      pot is legal but it still takes some resources to cultivate, and those are not the kind of resources street people who use synthetics are likely to possess. Maybe a benevolent home grower should go Robin Hood and give the good stuff away.

      • Not to mention while pot is also “legal” in the district – it’s not in the eyes of a drug screen.

    • The fake stuff is available wholesale from China for under half a cent a packet. Corner stores can easily get a thousands of doses shipped from abroad with virtually zero chance to getting caught, and everything they sell is pure profit. For users it’s much cheaper and apparently the high is more intense.
      Anyone not convinced this is serious, read this article in the NY Times:
      It does not take a lot of googling to find loads of first hand accounts of the insane and violent side effects of these drugs. One I’ve seen wrappers for around the neighborhood is called “Bizarro” is manufactured by a Chinese company named ZenBio. Look it up and you’ll find a litany of horror stories from users.
      Given the cheap price and extreme side effects if they mayor and MPD don’t attack this head on and aggressively it could be a HUGE problem soon.

    • When your reality sucks because you are poor and have little options you want to get out of the house and just get high as shit. You also don’t research what you take erowid or some asshole likes to dose people.

    • My understanding is that the effects of synthetic weed and PCP are much more dissociative than that of marijuana, and as such they feel like a “stronger” high.

    • Sorry if I’m super uninformed about this, but why aren’t cops going after the corner stores that sell this? Seems much easier to shut them down that go after traditional drug dealers. And based on a previous poster, these are currently illegal.

      • I think the police -are-, but probably not as aggressively as we might like. I think some stores, like Aida’s (?) in Bloomingdale are being shut down for synthetic marijuana distribution because of ongoing neighborhood complaints about it. But I don’t think police officers are going from store to store to check on it. I wish they would, honestly.

        • How hard can it be? Walk into a store in plain clothes, see it for sale, try to buy, bust. Has to be easier than busting johns, and they seem to be pretty good at that.

  • This is a really good article about synthetic marijuana, ICYMI. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/magazine/spike-nation.html I think that now the average person knows more about synthetic marijuana, we’re more inclined to assume it’s responsible for all of the problems we’re seeing all over DC, but I think that assumption is probably overblown, as other commenters have said.

    • Agreed. Synthetics present a unique legal challenge and need to be handled swiftly and aggressively. That said, I think heroin and other drugs are still bigger problems. Synthetics are one of DC’s problems, not the only one. We need police to crack down on all illegal drug sales.

  • I don’t anything about this stuff but is there any difference between whats on the street now and what capital hemp used to sell? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/09/AR2010070903554.html

  • As others have noted earlier, I don’t think it’s the synth weed that’s the problem here. I know anecdotal data aren’t the best way to gauge a situation, but I’ve smoked LOTS of that stuff, and the most attacking I’ve done came at the expense of a box of doughnuts. PCP (or boat/formaldehyde) would be my guess.

    • The formulations are different than they were in the past, it has gotten much worse. Also this is largely k2, some cut with PCPs, some with bath salts. Yeah, synthetics are a problem now, more potent, but also a great deal of trickier with the mixing of other drugs.

  • What would you like the cops to do? Cop: “Uh, sir. Are you on drugs?” Hi-Guy: “Yeah, I am. Go F@#$% yourself.”
    Now what? DC doesn’t have a disorderly law, loitering law, so what are the cops supposed to do? If they try and stop people/ confront these individuals you talk about… You all will have a story about how the cops harass people. They can’t win….

    • They are being pro-active because they are now sending people who are obvious high to hospital drug treatment centers. The pace of the violent crimes has dropped in the past few weeks as a result when they figured out they can do this. They are also not arresting them, but they are no longer doing nothing. Sending people through the drug treatment system may be the best approach for the users, before they commit a violent crime.

    • Thanks for being that guy so I don’t have to. Seriously though, people are such rubes when it comes to drugs. This synthetic drug hysteria is like reefer madness all over again, or Mansonites on LSD, gangbangers on PCP, junkies robbing old folks homes, etc.
      The reason it is so easy to attach crazy behavior to new drugs is that you have to be a little crazy to try new unestablished drugs. So crazy people do them and then do something crazy! Then so called sane people (sane and dim apparently) with a lot of help from sensationalized media declare X drug makes man do Y crazy thing. When a supposed “nice boy” from the burbs smokes crack and murders his girlfriend he didn’t do it because of the crack he did it because he was probably a double life having sociopath as evidenced by the fact that he smokes crack while fooling all his dumbass suburban neighbors and teachers… when he’s caught the narrative is just waiting for him to shirk responsibility.
      Don’t get me wrong I think synthetics are bad mainly because gas stations and bodegas don’t have to build and maintain street cred so they can sell garbage all day; real drug dealers can’t do that without fear of reprisal.

  • I always wondered why there were so many guys there with packets of Newports and so many people interested in buying just one cigarette.

    That area is an absolute shit-show and it is just a matter of time before something there goes seriously wrong.

    • this is often times just plain cigarettes. not everyone has the 8 bucks on them to buy a whole pack, so they’ll pay 50 cents for a single, which also provides the seller with a small profit.

  • National Geographic’s Drugs Inc did a totally fascinating documentary of PCP in DC (mostly focused on dippers). I think it will help a lot of commenters here understand the “appeal” of this drug though I’m not sure appeal is the correct word for why people do it. Looks like you can watch it online if you have cable. http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/drugs-inc/episodes/pcp-in-dc/

  • The problem isn’t just on the Potbelly side of Columbia Heights, but the other side as well. A group of 5-10 young men and a few women congregate by the bike racks between the Metro and the old folks/senior home. The group also hang out by the few steps between the Wells Fargo ATM and the residential buildings.

    A recent Saturday morning, I saw them openly smoking dope and passing it around. Wish the police would walk around both sides of the Columbia Heights station more frequently.

  • Who are we worried about being drug tested by and not texting positive for marijuanna. A job?

    The dc court system no longer tests urine for marijuanna. They stopped about two years ago.

  • Brooklyn Brawler

    I say let the police round up all of the users by the Columbia Heights metro station and the users near Benning Road (where that park is) and let them battle it out while high. Last man/woman standing.

    Just joking but both groups are the worst!

  • If the cops do post up and bust kids for synthetic (legal) weed everyone is going to be up in arms about how they are “preying” on black youth….I think the police’s options are kind of limited.

  • This would be a wonderful opportunity for our Councilmember to coordinate a plan with Metro PD and Lanier. It pains me that these drug users are going home to sleep in their taxpayer subsidized apartments.

    • Instead of being mad at the drug users or those in subsidized housing, I think you mean to be mad at the muggers, stabbers, and shooters.

  • Synthetic Drugs and Public Safety – Kojo Nnamdi Show…

  • I work for the DEA in Arlington but live in AdMo. (POP can email me at my listed email to confirm)

    Synthetic drugs are absolutely taking a hold in DC and we, the authorities cannot get in front of the wave. I am very thankful that local law enforcement has made this crisis public.

    As fast as we can define the chemical components of these drugs and take the steps to make them illegal, the illicit chemists behind their production are a step ahead making minor changes to the chemical structure keeping them out of our enforcement umbrella. We are now having to put federal judges through organic chemistry 101 on a weekly basis in order to take any enforcement actions against their production.

    Regardless of what you think about drug laws (And personally I think Pot should be legal and mandatory minimums should be revoked, as do a majority of DEA officials) Synthetic drugs are a absolute nightmare for any community that has to deal with them. Their effects are scarier and more dangerous then any other drug we have seen in the last 20 years. This is a story that hasn’t yet been told, but it’s coming.

    Please, if you see any corner store or dealer selling these synthetic drugs, contact your local law enforcement officials ASAP. This is different then any other drug enforcement operation you may have dealt with in the past. And please for the sake of our community remove any preconceived bias against law enforcement or the “war” against drugs and its past affects on the community.

    This is dangerous.

    Stay safe, stay vigilant.

    • D – I won’t do drugs
      A – won’t have an attitude
      R – I will respect myself
      E – I will educate me

Comments are closed.