Many are buying it off the Internet, where sales are much harder to detect and control.
Synthetic marijuana, also known
as K-2 or spice, contains chemicals that are designed to mimic the effects of THC in marijuana, but it is not marijuana.
“They are basically spraying a chemical compound on wooden shavings,” Jacobs said of the product.
Even though the Georgia Legislature outlawed synthetic marijuana in 2010, convenience stores have continued to sell it.
According to House Bill 1309, synthetic marijuana is defined as:
“Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of the following substances, their salts, isomers (whether optical, positional, or geometric), homologues, and salts of isomers and homologues, unless specifically excepted, whenever the existence of these salts, isomers, homologues, and salts of isomers and homologues is possible within the specific chemical designation:
(A) 1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole (JWH-018);
(B) 1,1-dimethylheptyl-11-hydroxy-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (HU-210; (6a, 10a)-9-(hydroxymethyl)-6,6-dimethyl-3-(2-methyloctan-2-yl)-6a,7,10,10a-tetrahydrobenzo[c]chromen-1-ol);
(C) 2-(3-hydroxycyclohexyl)-5-(2-methyloctan-2-yl)phenol (CP 47,497).”
Manufacturers do not list the ingredients on the package, making it difficult to determine what is legal and what is not.
To determine if the substance has the chemicals and chemical makeup, the synthetic marijuana must be sent to the state crime lab for testing, said Joey Jacobs, commander of the Rome-Floyd Metro Drug Task Force.
There is no field test to determine quickly if a substance is synthetic marijuana, Jacobs said.
Jacobs warns users not to believe it’s safe just because it is so easy to get
“It’s deadly and dangerous,” he said.
“I c-c-c-c-an’t breathe”
One Rome family found out first hand how dangerous synthetic marijuana can be.
“I c-c-c-c-an’t breathe,” were the words Ashley Stevens gasped to her mother, Michelle Stevens, on the phone last week.
That phone call was the beginning of a long weekend of anxiety for the Stevens family after they learned that Ashley had been given what is known as synthetic marijuana by the mother of a teenage girl she was spending the night with on Reservoir Street. Ashley had also been given an energy drink that contained alcohol.
When Michelle Stevens arrived Ashley was having trouble breathing and was having seizures, she said.
Ashley was rushed to Floyd Medical Center where she spent a day in ICU, but doctors told Stevens the long-term effects of the drug are not known, she said.
In fact, no tests have been done to determine what affect this could have in the short or long-term for people who use it, Jacobs said.
While many teens are using it because it’s easy to get, its use is not limited to the younger crowd. Because it cannot be detected in a drug test, it has become popular for those on probation or parole and others looking to get high without having it show up in a test.
And it’s just not health problems that are causing concern. Just this year, several deaths have been linked to synthetic marijuana:
Poison control center across the country report an increase in calls about synthetic marijuana.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 2,915 calls about the drug in all of 2010.
Since Oct. 31 of this year, there have already been 5,741.
Fighting the ‘new war’
Synthetic marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug in Georgia, just like heroin. Georgia Law defines a Schedule I drug as:
(A) A drug or other substance that has a high potential for abuse;
(B) A drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
The Schedule I classification makes it a felony to sell, use or possess, and those caught could face two to 15 years in prison.
Jacobs is in the process of drafting a letter to state lawmakers asking for clarification in the law so that it is easier to determine what synthetic marijuana is.
The publicity surrounding Ashley had one positive effect — it’s been almost non-existent in local convenience stores, Jacobs said.
“It’s sad that a bad incident had to take place to get them to pull the stuff,” Jacobs said. “We hope it stays that way.”