Solution to synthetic marijuana killing people might be to legalize actual pot which does not

Philip Montgomery for The New York Times


Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

Just a thought: if synthetic, lab-brewed subsitutes for marijuana turning victims into vegetables and sending emergency responders into a panic, as this horrifying New York Times feature on 'Spike' indicates, guys, maybe we could think about just legalizing actual marijuana, which does not kill people or turn them into zombies.

You pretty much *cannot overdose* (not to the point where it kills you or causes you to go bonkers forever) with Cannabis sativa.

You can definitely OD on fake cannabis sativa.

People sometimes die after taking synthetic pot. But not on real pot.

Steve Featherstone in the NYT:

Syracuse, where I’ve lived almost my entire life, has struggled with synthetic drugs before. William Harper, a local businessman and two-time Republican candidate for City Council, moonlighted as the kingpin of bath salts in New York for two years before the Drug Enforcement Administration took him down in 2011. Was there a spike kingpin out there now, flooding the street with a bad batch? Perhaps, but similar outbreaks occurred in several states along the Gulf of Mexico in April, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that between January and June, the nationwide number of synthetic marijuana ‘‘exposures’’ — that is, reported contact with the substance, which usually means an adverse reaction — had already surpassed totals for 2013 and 2014, and that 15 people died from such exposure. Maybe there was a larger cause.

Every state has banned synthetic cannabinoids, the chemicals in spike that impart the high. Although the active ingredients primarily come from China, where commercial labs manufacture them to order like any other chemical, spike itself is produced domestically. Traffickers spray the chemicals on dried plant material and seal the results in foil pouches; these are then sold on the Internet or distributed to stores across the country, which sell them sometimes under the counter, as in Syracuse, or sometimes right by the cash register, depending on local laws. Unlike marijuana, cocaine and other naturally occurring drugs, synthetic cannabinoids can be tweaked on a molecular level to create novel, and arguably legal, drugs.

Since 2008, when authorities first noted the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in ‘‘legal marijuana’’ products, periodic surges in overdoses have often coincided with new releases, and emergency doctors have had to learn on the fly how to treat them. This latest surge is notable for the severity of symptoms: seizures, extreme swings in heart rate and blood pressure, kidney and respiratory failure, hallucinations. Many patients require such enormous doses of sedatives that they stop breathing and require intubation, and yet they still continue to struggle violently. Eric Kehoe, a shift commander at the Rural Metro ambulance company that employs Darbee and Drake, said bath-salts overdoses are easier to deal with. ‘‘You might find them running naked down the middle of the street,’’ he said, but ‘‘you could talk them down. These people here — there’s no point. You can’t even reason with them. They’re just mute. They have this look about them that’s just like a zombie.’’

Spike Nation [Steve Featherstone/NYT]

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