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How easy is it to buy synthetic drugs in the District? Easy enough that the councilmember whose committee handles the fallout from the drugs nearly scored a bag herself last year.
At a press conference this morning to announce new penalties for selling synthetic drugs, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander related her experience as a freelance undercover buyer. Alexander was able to persuade a clerk at a head shop in Columbia Heights to sell her a bag of “Scooby Snax” brand synthetic drugs.
“I’m glad I look cool enough, I guess,” Alexander says.
Alexander, who chairs the Council’s health and human services committee, tells LL that it took some convincing to score the drugs. The clerk initially refused to make the illicit sale, but agreed to sell her the drugs after she refused to leave without them.
“You have to be persistent,” Alexander says.
Alexander never completed the transaction. The clerk insisted on cash only, and at a hefty $40, the councilmember wasn’t buying.
Alexander isn’t the first District pol to go incognito. In 2010, Kwame Brown tested how long it would take cabbies to pick him up if he wasn’t wearing a suit. As mayor, Vince Gray twice stormed between convenience stores on a hunt for synthetic drugs—albeit with staff and camera crews in tow.
Soon, though, Alexander’s would-be supplier might be more wary selling Scooby Snax. After the District saw a spate of overdoses on the drug, Muriel Bowser announced new legislation today that would jack up the fines for businesses caught selling synthetic drugs. While a business caught now will be fined $2,000, the first fine under the new bill will be $10,000. On a second charge, the business could be shut down for 30 days and fined $20,000.
The increased penalties have won favor with at least some councilmembers. At the press conference, Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May told synthetic drug vendors to move out to the District’s surrounding counties. Similarly, Alexander warned convenience stores stocking the drug to get out of her ward.
“I’m coming out to get you!” she said.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery