Synthetic marijuana causes concernPublished 6:25pm Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Hospitalization and a suicide attempt: Synthetic marijuana has moved into Dowagiac in an ominous way in the past month.
Det. Sgt. David Toxopeus of the Cass County Drug Enforcement Team said Monday the drug already is becoming prevalent — especially for youths who know where to buy it over the counter, including a liquor store and some gas stations in Cass County.
On Thursday, officers from Dowagiac Police Department and Cass County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a suicidal subject at Eagle’s Wood apartment complex on Amerihost Drive.
When police attempted to make contact with the male subject, the man jumped from a window with his 2-year-old son. Officers detained the man, who was taken to Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital by Pride Care EMS for treatment for minor injuries and evaluation by mental health personnel.
The child escaped injury.
On Feb. 24, Dowagiac police responded to a call at a residence where four teenagers, ages 13 and 14, had smoked what appeared to be a form of synthetic marijuana.
Officers found one teen lying on the floor in a semi-unresponsive state.
This individual was transported to Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, where she was treated and released that same evening. All of the teens were examined by medical personnel and turned over to their parents.
CCDET was contacted to conduct further investigation.
Detectives learned the substance used was believed to be bought as “incense” from a liquor store in the Dowagiac area.
Further research showed that the chemical copycat for marijuana can be dangerous but easy to acquire, and that it is difficult to find a law that exactly applies to the use or sale of some synthetic narcotics.
Synthetic marijuana is packaged as “Potpourri” or “Incense,” but actually smoked like marijuana.
Although a Michigan law bans sale or use of some synthetic marijuana, chemists have changed the composition of the substance, possibly making it legal to sell and use.
The Dowagiac case remains under investigation by investigators and the Cass County Prosecutor’s Office as to whether the substance used is illegal under state or federal law.
Some brands sold in Cass County include K2, Spice, Mr. Smiley, Darkness, Genie, Diablo, LOL, Mad Hatter and Scooby Snax.
Detectives discovered there seem to be new brands popping up all of the time, making it difficult for law enforcement to keep up.
Grasping the dangers
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) released a statement Nov. 28, 2011, which contained a statement from DEA drug science officer Douglas A. Snyder, saying, “These substances have the potential to be extremely harmful and, therefore pose an imminent hazard to the public safety.”
A Feb. 16 AAPCC news release cited Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, speaking about bath salts and synthetic marijuana at a meeting convened by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“These substances are among the worst poison centers have ever seen,” Ryan said. “The psychosis seen in some users is truly remarkable in a very scary way. People high on these drugs have done some bizarre things to themselves and hurt others around them.”
In the Eagle’s Wood case, city police contacted the Department of Human Services for assistance. The child was turned over to relatives.
Members of CCDET responded to the scene as well and observed a form of synthetic marijuana.
The subject told CCDET investigators he recently smoked a type of synthetic marijuana. He also told police the synthetic material causes him to behave erratically and described experiencing altered mental status.
CCDET officers have interviewed numerous subjects throughout Cass County regarding their use of various types of synthetic marijuana. Almost all describe symptoms including nausea, headaches and an unpleasant high.
A December 2011 news release from the University of Michigan cited a study released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One part of the study reported that one in nine high school seniors nationwide reported using synthetic marijuana over the 12 months prior to the study.
CCDET, which combines the resources of Cass County Sheriff Joe Underwood and city Department of Public Safety Director Tom Atkinson, asks parents to take notice of the hazards of using synthetic drugs and to take time to speak with their children on this topic.
Parents need only type synthetic marijuana deaths into an internet search engine to grasp the dangers of synthetic drugs and young people.
While laws regarding synthetic drugs are ever changing, the role of parents and public safety workers has not. Parents and the law enforcement community can work together to protect young people. Parents are encouraged to research this matter and to contact CCDET with questions.
Detectives will attempt to assist parents and investigate incidents involving synthetic drugs. Anyone with questions or concerns about synthetic or any type of drug is asked to contact the drug team at (269) 782-5206, Cass County Crime Tip Line at (800) 462-9328 or via the web at www.ccso.info.