“The chemist alters the chemical structure,” said Rusty Grant, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said.
By altering the chemicals, stores are legally able to sell the product.
The only thing the GBI can do to combat these alterations, since the Georgia General Assembly is not in session, is show that altered chemicals are being abused by consumers and have them banned by the pharmacy board, Grant said.
In 2011 there were 6,959 calls made to poison control centers nationwide due to adverse effects associated with synthetic cannabinoid compounds, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
“As the usage has dramatically increased, instances of violence, bodily harm and even death have risen with it,” Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said in a press release. “I applaud the GBI and the General Assembly for their fast work on this legislation, which addresses a pressing need.”
Deal added, “These synthetic substances pose an enormous risk to our public safety.”
Deal signed into law SB 370, or Chase’s Law, named in memory of Chase Corbitt Burnett, a 16 year old honor student and soccer player found dead in a hot tub at his parent’s house in Fayette County after smoking a form of synthetic marijuana.
SB370 makes it illegal to spray natural herbs with synthetic chemicals for the purpose of intoxication. It does not ban natural substances found in the drug.
Danger on doorstep
These synthetic products are sold in Gordon County, and consumers smoke it to get “high”.
Different forms of synthetic marijuana are marketed under names such as K2, Spice, Blaze, Black Mamba and Red X Dawn.
The manufacturers claim the products are made of natural herbs, and are sold as incense with labels that say “Not for human consumption.”
These products are mostly made up of a variety of dried plant and herbal materials; they are also sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid substance that mimics the effects of the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary active chemical in marijuana, according to Brent Box, the Chief Hospitalist at Gordon Hospital.
Box said synthetic marijuana has been around for about five or six years, but it has become a problem in the past couple of years even though it has essentially become illegal.
Most of the patients Box sees are young. They come in to the hospital paranoid, delirious, confused, agitated and violent. He said the patients are psychotic and lose touch with reality, with symptoms lasting anywhere between four to five hours and up to 24 hours.
Illusions of safety
According to Box, many people smoke synthetic marijuana because they think it does not show up on drug tests, and in fact, the usual tests hospital staff run wouldn’t show the drug, but there is a more sophisticated test that can be sent off to show if someone is positive for the drug.
There is also an illusion of safety with synthetic marijuana, according to Box. When someone purchases a mainstream drug off the street there is a conscious feeling that they are doing something illegal.
When someone purchases the synthetic drug that feeling doesn’t exist, because it’s being bought at a store legally. This assumption is completely false.
Short-term effects are anxiety, memory loss and paranoia, according to Box, who says currently, there are no methods in place for testing long-term effects of the drug, because it is so new.
For more information please visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/spice-synthetic-marijuana.