Packages of synthetic marijuana are once again available for sale legally, despite a law passed in March banning the drug, because manufacturers found a way around the ban, WSAV-TV in Savannah reports.
As The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reported last spring, synthetic marijuana, often known by the brand names K-2 or Spice, is created by spraying dried plant matter with a synthetic cannabanoid, a chemical that mimics the effects of THC, the psychoactive chemical that gives marijuana users their high. Lawmakers believed the legislation banning the drug—which made illegal the base chemical formula and any alterations of that formula—would close a loophole manufacturers of fake pot had used to skirt previous bans.
"We identified the base formula,” state Senator Buddy Carter told WSAV-TV. “We said any deviation, any alteration of the base formula, would be illegal. That worked for a while. Unfortunately what they've done is they've changed the base formula.”
The new chemical formulation is apparently not covered by the existing ban.
Health risks abound for users of synthetic marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Yesterday, the first death in Georgia linked to fake pot was identified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) chief medical examiner, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported. A 16-year-old from Fayette County, Ga. lost consciousness and drowned after smoking the drug in his parents’ hot tub.
Carter told WSAV-TV that GBI chemists are working on the problem and the state legislature will take up the issue during the next session beginning in January 2013.
"We're going to continue to fight this battle until we win, and we will win," he said.
Photo by John Fleming | JJIE.org
Heavy marijuana use among teens has increased drastically in recent years, with nearly one in 10 sparking up 20 times or more each month, according to a new survey of young Americans released this morning.
The findings represent nearly an 80 percent increase in past-month heavy marijuana use among high school aged youth since 2008.
Overall, the rate of marijuana use among teens has increased. Past month marijuana users, or teens that have used marijuana in the month prior to the survey, increased 42 percent, to 27 percent of teens, compared to 2008 findings. Past-year and lifetime use also increased, but not as drastically, at 26 percent and 21 percent respectively.
Marijuana use has not been this widespread among American teens since 1998, when the past-month usage rate hovered around 27 percent, according the survey conducted by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation.
“Heavy use of marijuana – particularly beginning in adolescence – brings the risk of serious problems and our data show it is linked to involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well,” Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, said in a press release. “Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who start using after the teenage years.”
The use of marijuana is becoming normalized among teens, too, according to the survey of 3,322 teen-aged students in grades 9-12 and 821 parents. Seventy-one percent of teens said they have friends who use the drug, up 64 percent from 2008, and only 26 percent agreed with the statement, “in my school, most teens don’t smoke marijuana.”
Still, while the number of teens who have used marijuana in their lifetime is on the rise, less than half of high school aged students have actually used the drug. The rate of teens who disapproved of their peer’s use of the drug remained unchanged since 2008, with more than 60 percent disapproving of the practice – and 41 percent who said they “strongly disapprove.”
Heavy users are drastically more likely to use other drugs such as cocaine, Ecstasy and prescription drugs, compared to their peers who reported not using marijuana in the past year, the report found.
Teen boys, especially Hispanic males, have led the increase in the past year. Heavy usage by teen boys usage increased at nearly twice the rate of their female counterparts. Hispanic high school males are more likely to have used marijuana in the past year compared to their peers. Fifty percent reported using the drug in the past year, compared to 40 percent of black and 35 percent of white teens.
“The latest findings showing an increase in marijuana use among teens is unsettling and should serve as a wake-up call to everyone in a position to prevent unhealthy behavior,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation, who contributed to the report. “While it may be difficult to clearly understand just how dangerous marijuana use can be for teens, it is imperative that we all pay attention to the warning signs and intervene anyway we can.”
The findings are part of the 23rd annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, a yearly gauge of teens’ and parents’ attitudes toward issues that affect their lives.
Photo credit: Ryan Schill/JJIE
Running back Spencer Ware along with cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon will be suspended for Saturday’s game against Auburn University, and possibly longer, according to the unnamed source.
The story was first reported by LSU's student newspaper, The Daily Reveille.
Worried fans have been voicing their concerns on message boards and forums around the Internet. The suspensions come about two weeks before No. 1 ranked LSU is set to take on No. 2 Alabama.
Synthetic marijuana use has been on the rise among athletes in recent years, according to a report by Sportsology.com, due to the absence of THC and the player’s ability to pass a drug test after use. But both law enforcement authorities and drug test technologies have been adjusting to the trend.
LSU's athletic department and head coach Les Miles have yet to release a statement about the suspensions, but if the initial reports hold true this would be the first instance of a player’s suspension based on a positive drug screen for the substance.
Miles has referred to the matter as internal. He was quoted by the Picayune as saying only that, "I'm not inclined to be forthcoming in information. I'm not reactionary to needs of media and things external to this building. There's a process I go through, and it's not going to be shortcutted for the need to communicate. When there's information that I can share, I will. I'm doing this for the best of our football team, to maintain a deportment and procedure that I'm true to and a process I'm comfortable with."
As JJIE reported, in November 2010 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) added five variations of synthetic marijuana to the official list of illicit drugs, placing a ban on the drug nationally. While the DEA effectively banned what officials considered the five most dangerous compounds, there are alternatives. Similar compounds that are still legal produce comparable effects, and manufacturers wasted no time in making the switch.
Many states, including Louisiana, have taken up more extensive bans on the substance.
When it comes to college football, however, synthetic marijuana -– also known as Spice, K2 and Black Mamba -– is already on the National College Athletic Association's banned substance list. Regardless of state or national law, players can still face suspension under the ban.
A Colorado commission that has been reviewing the state’s marijuana policies over the past few months is set to deliver suggestions to the Drug Policy Taskforce on Wednesday. The group has still not reached a conclusion on the main issue of setting a legal THC impairment limit while driving.
The Drug Policy Taskforce will in turn provide suggestions to the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCCJJ), of which it is a division. The CCCJJ is charged with, among other things, conducting and reviewing studies and recommendations from various committees as they pertain to criminal and juvenile justice practices in the state.
The DUID-Marijuana Working Group was formed in response to Colorado House Bill 1261, defeated last April, that proposed a legal impairment limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in an effort to solidify marijuana-related DUI laws.
More than 400 people were killed in crashes involving a driver that tested positive for drugs between 2006 and 2010, accounting for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state, according to Colorado’s Department of Transportation.
HB 1261 cleared Colorado’s House, but was shelved by the Senate Judiciary Committee amid growing concerns the 5 nanogram limit was too strict due to the lingering presence of THC after a patient is sober. The bill was held, at least in part, due to lack of evidence that a specific blood content level indicates intoxication.
Opponents on both sides of the political spectrum called for changes in the bill, suggesting both lower and higher thresholds of intoxication.
Members of the DUID-Marijuana Working Group told Denver Westword the limits would do little for public safety since blood test results would not be available on the spot. Rather, the committee will suggest an increase in the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) in the field. DREs are law enforcement officials specifically trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, and in addition to, alcohol.
Medical marijuana use in Colorado has been legal since 2000. Perspective patients are required to submit a recommendation from a physician with a valid DEA license to be considered for the program.
It is unclear if a bill similar to HB 1261 will be introduced during the next legislative session.
Photo credit: Caveman Chuck Coker/Flickr
This week’s story on synthetic marijuana, The Straight Dope on Fake Dope, shook out some thoughtful comments from JJIE.Org readers, Facebook and Twitter followers. We’ve also gotten some responses thanks to American Public Media’s Public Insight Network (PIN), more than 100,000 people across the country who have agreed to share their expertise to inform news coverage.
Have at look at what they are saying, and if you have any thoughts, please send them our way.
Also, it seems the adults are eager to talk. Anyone out there still in their teens want to contribute?
Diana, from Washington state, who works with adolescents suffering from addictions, said synthetic pot is easy to find, too easy in her part of the Pacific Northwest.
The stuff is not safe, she says. Adding that, “it is a mind and mood altering chemical that feeds addiction. It does not serve a purpose other than that.”
And, she adds a warning: Be careful and watchful about so-called “bath salts,” a material she compares to “dirty methamphetamine.”
JJIE hears the same and hopes to look into it in the near future.
Elmer, a former corrections officer, a follower of JJIE and a member of the PIN, also says synthetic pot is readily available, “on every street corner, in every gas station.”
It isn’t safe for adults, nor teens, he added.
“An altered mental state is never safe,” he wrote. “The fact that the chemicals and herb mixtures are legal does not make them safe.”
The stuff, Elmer writes, is a problem within some juvenile detention centers and has sometimes led to fights between kids.
A Gerogia resident, he ended by scolding the state Legislature for not acting to quash the sale of the substance.
"Why is the state Legislature so damn stupid and slow? This is a real threat and they worry about getting re-elected to the exclusion of everything else," he wrote.
Also, this YouTube video features a couple of legitimate experts on the subject, Dr. Barry Logan and Dr. Michael Frost, talking about the adverse effects of fake pot. The sound is a little scratchy as the good doctors apparently decided to do the interview in the humming, noisy lab. But it’s worth wading through the ruckus in the background to get the underlying message. Which is, don’t be stupid, don’t do it. High anxiety? Rapid heart rate? Paranoia? Thoughts of suicide? Who needs that.