Suffolk County Strengthens Ban On Synthetic Marijuana

Jun 6, 2016

Packets of synthetic marijuana seized by the New York Police Department after a search warrant was served at a newsstand in Brooklyn in 2015.
Credit New York Police Department / AP

A new Suffolk County law prohibits the manufacturing and sale of the synthetic drugs known as K2 and bath salts. New York State already has a ban on those drugs, but Suffolk County’s law goes further by banning all strains of it. Supporters hope the tighter ban will help stop it from being sold in the county.  

Maria Berdat is a 15-year-old recovering addict whose fix was K2, a man-made chemical that has effects similar to marijuana.

Berdat says it's dangerous and addictive – and being sold in many local bodegas, delis and gas stations around her town of Huntington Station and across Long Island. 

She said, “I needed that drug. If I didn't have that drug, I was not going to be me. I thought I was going to die, and actually did almost die from not having that drug in my system because that is how powerful it is.”   

Berdat says the K2 she bought looks like oregano laced with dangerous chemicals. It was sold in brightly colored packets that cost around $15.

She started smoking K2 after her mother, Peggy, caught her smoking marijuana and had her drug tested. Peggy Berdat says that her daughter switched to K2 because it cannot be found in a generic drug test.

"Just because you are getting a negative drug test does not mean your children are not doing something,” Peggy said.

For nearly two years, Maria was in and out of school. She spent countless nights in hospitals and rehabilitation programs to fight her K2 addiction.

Maria eventually was able to get clean through rehab and the help of her mother. One of the first things Maria did was join her mother to push for a bill to make it more difficult for teenagers like her to get K2.

"Thank god we have a happy ending, but there are so many that don't."

They spoke to their local legislator, William Spencer of Huntington, who says he was touched by their story.

Spencer introduced the bill, which passed the Suffolk County Legislature last week. He says it will punish those who sell synthetic drugs like K2 with several thousand dollars in fines and up to one year in prison.