If you follow the news you have probably seen headlines involving the term “synthetic marijuana”, most recently seen in the events that took place in New Haven, Connecticut.
Synthetic Marijuana resulted in over 70 known overdoses caused by consuming a synthetic drug known as K2 What occurred on August 16th in New Haven is an impactful reminder of the dangers of consuming synthetic drugs. These drugs have been on both the licit and illicit market for the past few decades as an alternative to marijuana.
It became popular because it allowed an affordable and easily accessible way for drug users to experience similar effects of marijuana without triggering a drug test due to the absence of THC. However, the negative effects of the substance can be deadly. The true dangers of synthetic drugs lies the alternative ingredients used in this drug. Since these drugs are not regulated the presence of opioid and anticoagulant substances are used as alternatives which users have no idea they are taking. Consequently, there have been many instances of overdose.
The dangers of these drugs have recently become known to the public eye, and has since been subjected to federal and state laws that attempt to restrict the production and distribution of synthetic cannabinoid products. These laws include the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, signed into law in 2011 by President Obama, as well as several state laws have enacted criminal and civil penalties for the sale of synthetic cannabinoid products and strict regulation of product labeling and branding.
These laws have been enacted in order to make the individual substances legal as well as criminalize sales. In addition, the regulations on labels of these drugs have become more important after synthetic drugs were produced with the label “not for human consumption” in order to avoid the “synthetic” label. By labeling the substance as “not safe for human consumption”, the drug could be distributed without violating laws that specifically criminalized “synthetic” drugs.
Because the substances that make up synthetic cannabinoids do not include THC, many users are members of the federal government or military due to the administration of mandatory drug tests on the job. In addition, other common users tend to be the homeless population who are able to afford synthetic drugs and find them easily. In other words, synthetic marijuana products are not the drug of choice for many Americans, but rather it is an alternative to actual cannabis for users who are not given a choice.
These circumstances have had an effect on Washington, D.C. where officials say there has been a recent spike in overdoses at the hands of K2. These overdoses are a result of the K2 that has been laced with a substance chemically similar to rat poison. D.C. Officials also say that these overdoses may have been related to the hot summer weather which causes dehydration which can trigger an overdose to occur. This has had a particularly large effect on the homeless population, who are more likely to be affected by dehydration and overheating. It is important for users to be aware that the drug they are given is synthetic (not naturally produced like cannabis) and that there is really no way to know what is in the drug they are given.
Many students who live in D.C. also work for the government, and may turn to synthetic cannabinoids as an alternative.
These students should proceed with caution and remember:
- Synthetic cannabinoids =/= cannabis.
- Although cannabis may be legal in D.C., cannabinoids are not.
- As a student you are required to adhere to your universities’ student conduct code, which prohibits drug use of cannabis. You may be subject to criminal and university sanctions if you are found with possession of synthetic cannabinoids.
- Cannabinoids contain substances other than cannabis, and may be laced with a potentially deadly drug. There is no way to know how it will affect you.
- The symptoms for an overdose include: bleeding, easy bruising, oozing gums and nosebleeds. If left unchecked by medical professionals, these symptoms may result in vomiting, convulsing and passing out.
- If you are found guilty of possession of/intent to sell a synthetic cannabinoid such as K2, seek legal help.
These materials have been prepared by WGW for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.