Synthetic marijuana use on the rise in howard county news tropico 5 power plant


For six years, Miller said she used the drug every day. Consisting of either tea leaves or potpourri sprayed with any myriad of chemicals, ranging from acetone to formaldehyde, the leafy substance is then smoked. From there, because of the inconsistencies in what can be sprayed on the leafy substance, a lot can happen. Including long-term implications for a user.

“Before I started doing spice I didn’t have a stuttering problem,” said Miller. “Now when I’m trying to talk about something that I really want to get off my mind, it’s hard to think about what I want to say. I fell into seizures off of it. I’ve been hospitalized off of it. I’ve felt like I was going to die off of it. You never know what kind of high you’re going to get.”

“Basically, it has lasting effects,” said Miller. “I’ve gone to doctors and all that, and I’ve not recovered. Ever since I started doing it my eye will start twitching real bad, and it won’t stop. It has lasting effects. People need to think about it before they do it. It’s not just like you’re just going to go hit a joint of weed and come back from it. You’re going to have lasting effects sooner or later. Some people have it on their first hit. I’ve seen people hit it and not come back. They’re literally crazy. People have died on it trying it for the first time.”

Because of the varying nature of chemicals used to produce spice, it’s difficult to nail down how many overdoses are associated with the drug. While some have allegedly died as a result of spice use, the coroner’s office finds it difficult to determine deaths from overdosing on synthetic marijuana.

“It’s difficult to tell if it’s laced unless we have an idea from a family member or a witness can tell us, ‘Yes we think it was laced,’” said Howard County Coroner Jay Price. “Then I can tell a laboratory what we are possibly looking for. Wherever they’re getting these chemicals, all they have to do is change one ingredient, and it’s hard to keep up with this stuff.”

In 2012 three arrests were made for possession of a synthetic drug or synthetic drug lookalike substance, a class A misdemeanor, which encompasses the possession of spice. While this charge also can include other drugs, Howard County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ron Byal said most of these charges are for spice possession.

In 2013, 44 cases were shown, and in 2015, 48 arrests were made for possession of a synthetic drug. However, this year there are already 27 arrests for possession of a synthetic drug, in addition to three level 6 felony charges of possession of a synthetic drug.

“I see things based on who gets arrested and what we have,” said Byal. “I just see a lot of these spice cases coming through. You talk to the defendants and see the statements that they give to the police. They say, ‘Oh, it’s just spice. I don’t smoke meth anymore, just spice.’ Some people seem to think it’s less dangerous than meth, heroin, or cocaine or whatever. People try to go to that, but they’re not willing to go to treatment and get off of everything.”

Several years ago spice could be purchased over the counter at head shops and gas stations. However, its sale was eventually banned. But small variations in the drug’s chemical makeup helps sellers skirt the laws banning its sale. As a result, some local retailers are reported to be still be selling spice.

“The problem you have with the synthetic drugs is there are just numerous quantities of stuff that keeps changing,” said Byal. “A lot of these people that manufacture this stuff, they try to stay one step ahead of the state legislature. So if you have a compound that has certain characteristics to it, they will change the chemical makeup of that to make it something different than what the statute says. The statute lists a whole bunch of chemicals, so they change a few molecules of it so it has a different chemical composition. So, you have this product that is not illegal until the legislature changes it.”

“It’s close,” said McAllister. “Heroin gets a lot of publicity because it’s so dramatic. People just stop breathing. These people just become severely agitated and tachychardic, and there’s real risk. But I’d say it’s just under the opiate problem.”