Synthetic drugs with names including bizarro, K2, spice and train wreck have been illegal in Washington since 2012 but after a spike in overdoses, Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to punish stores that sell the products.
Bowser wants D.C. Council to allow D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to immediately shut down for four days any stores that sell the drugs, similar to the police chief's authority to temporarily shut down bars and nightclubs associated with violence.
"We believe that there should be harsher penalties," Bowser said, referring to a "dangerous spike in overdoses" in the District.
At least 11 people overdosed on synthetic drugs in downtown D.C. Friday, forcing police and firefighters to set up a mobile command center outside the city's largest homeless shelter, as News4 reported.
The highly addictive drugs can cause psychotic episodes, aggressive behavior and seizures, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
"Synthetic drugs are extraordinarily serious. They're in fact deadly," D.C. Assistant Attorney General Argatonia Weatherington said.
More people are likely overdosing on synthetic drugs than authorities hear about, Bowser said.
"We expect that many more cases are going unreported and untreated," she said.
Calvin Ward, an ANC commissioner who represents the Northeast D.C. neighborhood of Rosedale, said he welcomes the mayor's move to stop stores from selling the drugs.
"They need to be held accountable," Ward said. "This type of activity shouldn't be occurring in our neighborhood. It's a blatant disregard and disrespect for the community."
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has been taking legal action against offending stores. He plans to review the mayor's proposal, which would shut down sales more quickly.
Racine said in April that he would shut down convenience stores that sell the drugs.