By C.N. Staff Writer
Medicinal marijuana is quickly becoming law in many states across America. Voters are creating legislation that would allow medical marijuana to open up shops, but there’s something a bit more alternative than this that is getting into the hands of high school students and teens.
Experts say that synthetic marijuana is a dangerous drug that kids are smoking and is often called “Scooby Snax” or “K2.” The products are labeled as potpourri but laced with chemicals that mimic the effects of pot. First detected by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008, the federal government outlawed the drug in 2011, it can still be bought in specialty shops and local convenient stores across the DMV, with no age restrictions.
In December the District’s council passed legislation that outlawed the drug within city limits and Virginia has done the same and a ban passed in the state of Maryland in April goes into full effect in October. Dealers of the drug claim that it is not illegal due to its ingredients, none of which are natural.
The drug contains synthetic cannabinoids, chemicals produced in laboratories originally to help scientists study the cannabinoid system in the human brain and the drug looks like a mixture of dried leaves from traditional herbal plants. They are various colors including green, brown, blonde and red. They are sold in small packets approximately 2 by 3 inches. The packets are foil packs or plastic zip bags
While there have been no reports of adverse cases in D.C., parents in neighboring Virginia have reported that their kids have used the drug and had terrible, reactions. A Loudon County family recounts their 15-year old son’s reactions to the drug and how it put him in the hospital intensive care unit, “When I went in the beginning he don’t recognize me first of all, after that he was so weak he couldn’t walk,” said Francisco Zegarra-Rodriguez, who told his story to Fox 5 News.
The drug is blamed for several deaths nationwide and scores more of hospitalizations by teens who have experienced the negative effects due to overdose. Synthetic marijuana was linked to 11,406 drug-related emergency department visits in 2010, according to a first-of-its-kind report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Medical officers with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said common side effects to smoking synthetic marijuana include bloodshot eyes, disturbed perceptions and a change in mood. One blogger, Mike @eruptionwarranty wrote a note of caution to would-be users after he and his friend smoked a pot and a half of the drug while driving and he witnessed his friend acting out soon after. “My friend stopped talking to me mid conversation… He turned to me and looked at me from behind the blankest eyes I’d ever seen in my life… He responded by crossing his eyes, and sticking his tongue out, curling it in a grotesque fashion. He then leaned down fast at my arm in an attempt to bite me. He flailed is arms, seizing and contorting his body in ways I’d never imagined possible. He kicked out with his foot, smashing out my rearview mirror, and leaving my actual windshield with about two feet of splintered cracks in it.”
Officials believe the name “synthetic marijuana” is deceiving because people may believe it is similar to real marijuana, but doctors warn that it’s actually worse. Parents and civic activists in the district have fought back. According to a Washington Post report, a community-orchestrated strike was held outside a local Exxon station located on Benning Road NE, within walking distance of two high schools and an elementary school. The store was known to sell various types of synthetic marijuana products, including a brand called “Scooby Snax.” Congresswoman Norton joined the protesters and, after much debate with the store manager, got him to promise to stop selling any K2 products in accordance with the recently passed federal ban on its distribution in the District. The manager also agreed to discard the K2 he had in stock.