Well it’s definitely not a new story...but synthetic marijuana is at it again. For years, substances like K2 and other synthetic marijuana varieties have caused extreme physical ailments and potential death.
This time the drug is hitting the homeless population in Saint Louis, MO, according to reports last week. Over 40 people were treated for synthetic marijuana-related overdoses in the downtown area, none of which were fatal. Police are still investigating the incident in an attempt to crack down on whoever is distributing K2 throughout the shelters.
The report stated that officials first became alarmed around 2pm on Thursday, November 10 when a “man was acting erratically...and threatened to attack one of the paramedics, according to witnesses.”
Later that evening, an influx of calls from the same downtown area lead paramedics to groups of people in need of medical treatment. “When paramedics arrived on the scene, there were men and women lying on the ground,” said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson. “Some were having seizures, moaning and asking for help.”
As in previous reports of K2 overdoses, “People were standing and walking around like zombies,” said Jenkerson. “They didn’t know what they were doing or where they were at.”
As we published back in 2012, marijuana prohibition only leads rise to these much more dangerous substances. It’s not uncommon for people to turn to legally available drugs.
There’s a pretty obvious answer to a problem like this: ending marijuana prohibition. Without legal access to marijuana, those looking for a smoke can be easy to fooled. “Somebody is preying on the most vulnerable people in society,” said Larry Rice from the New Life Evangelistic Center- a homeless shelter in the area where the overdoses occurred.
According the same report, the police found that the batch of K2 circulating was being sold at the price of $1 per rolled cigarette. “It’s a cheap way to get high,” said St. Louis Police Lt. James Joyner. “They stiffen up, throw up and then go to the hospital.”
K2, or synthetic marijuana, is legal throughout the United States. However, this is only because manufacturers and distributors are able to mark the products as “not suitable for human consumption” to skirt FDA regulations.
Without legalizing harmless drugs like marijuana, we as a society only continue to open the door for black market drugs - or perhaps even more dangerous - legal products mistakenly used to get high that only lead to serious medical problems. Even Forbes tackled the dangers of synthetic marijuana after epidemics in 2014.
With medical and recreational access becoming more common through the country - 28 states including Washington D.C. now have legalized marijuana in some form, we should see synthetic overdose rates decline. But if we want to truly see the end of synthetic weed, then we need to legalize real weed.