Synthetic marijuana ‘literally poison’

Published 8:48 am Friday, May 15, 2015

“It’s literally poison.” Those are the words used by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris describing synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana, which goes by a variety of names including spice, herbal incense, molly, mojo and potpourri, is a dangerous chemical substance being abused throughout the United States, including Washington Parish.

“The growing use of synthetic marijuana is alarming,” Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal said. “It is frightening. It is a dangerous trend that not only is illegal but also is life-threatening. Many persons view it as safe pot, but it is anything but safe.”

Synthetic marijuana is created by spraying a substance called spice onto plants. Spice is a toxic substance usually created in clandestine Chinese labs using a mixture of unknown chemicals, sometimes including pesticides and rat poison.

Dealers will buy the chemicals and then use them to produce synthetic marijuana. The powdered chemicals are mixed with acetone and put in a spray bottle like the kind that is available at any hardware or home accessories store. Plant leaves are spread out on a table and sprayed with the chemical. The spraying process is not controlled, often resulting in toxic doses being sprayed onto some plants.

The end result is packaged and usually sold in convenience stores, often targeting youth as potential customers. Packaging is attractive and gives the impression that it is a harmless substance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many products are labeled as potpourri but contain chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. A good example of deceptive packaging is a product named Scooby Snax. It is designed to make an obvious appeal to youth. It is often marketed as incense or natural products. It is neither.

Is the substance illegal in Louisiana? Yes and no. While there are laws regulating the sale of the substance, dealers constantly change the chemical compound to get around the law. Only those substances specifically defined by state law are illegal. Other substances can be found on store shelves in Washington Parish because they have not been outlawed. It is a constant, and almost impossible, for legislatures to keep up with the ever-changing chemical formulas.

Who is using these substances? According to a national survey of teen drug use sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about one in nine high school seniors reported having used these substances last year. Children as young as 12 and adults as old as 60 have been identified.

“Synthetic marijuana has the potential to kill you,” Seal said. “Even aside from death, it can result in psychotic symptoms, an increased heart rate, seizures and loss of consciousness. It is not safe for human consumption. Parents, know what your children and teens are buying and using. Know what your children and teens are doing. Be the parent that you know you should be.”