Local authorities are warning citizens that a product being billed as a safe, legal alternative to marijuana is neither safe nor legal.
In a press release issued by the Bishop Police Department last week, officers said synthetic marijuana, also known as “Spice” or “K2” which can be purchased locally, has been known to have dangerous side effects, including seizures, paranoia, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
“Bishop is not immune to this product,” the press release from the PD states. “We have had reports of juveniles purchasing synthetic marijuana and becoming very ill.”
There has been one unconfirmed report of a local youth who, while smoking Spice, had a seizure that required a trip to the emergency room.
According to the PD, products such as “Spice” are synthetic cannabinoids, a “psychoactive herbal and chemical product, which, when consumed is supposed to mimic the effects of cannabis.”
However, the actual effects of these synthetic compounds can be unpredictable and harmful due to the addition of any number of unknown chemicals to manufacturers’ ever-changing recipes.
“These products are incredibly dangerous for kids – and adults for that matter,” said Karen Kong, prevention specialist with Inyo County Health and Human Services.
According to the Narcotic Education Foundation of America, “K2/Spice products are a mixture of herbal/spice plant products sprayed with potent psychotropic drugs, often contaminated with unidentified toxic substances which contribute to various adverse health effects, also cause hallucinogenic effects similar to the effects of PCP.”
Back in October Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation drafted by Senator Ed Hernandez, criminalizing the sale of several synthetic marijuana compounds.
Selling and purchasing the illegal products is a misdemeanor and can be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to six months.
Inyo County Narcotic Enforcement Team Commander Juan Martinez said his department has encountered a challenge when it comes to enforcing laws prohibiting the sale of synthetic marijuana and other products, such as synthetic “bath salts”.
“The popular brands are outlawed, but the legislature outlawed the chemical make-up of it,” Martinez said. “What they (the manufacturers) do is change a molecule or something like that so it doesn’t fall into the Health and Safety Code anymore. It’s exactly the same for bath salts.”
Manufacturers are also attempting to skirt the law by placing notices on the packaging for these synthetic substances, stating that they are not made for human consumption. “They’re marketing it as incense and things like that,” Martinez said.
Local law enforcement is looking into a Health and Safety Code statute that Martinez said serves as a “catch-all” for the loophole Spice manufacturers seem to be exploiting. Under the code, Martinez said all substances that have similar make-up and effects as controlled substances can be considered outlawed.
Martinez said that reports of use of the substance has not been widespread locally, “but I’m sure it’s around.”