Pubdate: Wed, 08 Dec 2010
Source: Herald, The (SC)
Copyright: 2010 The Herald
Author: Toya Graham


Coalition leader: 'Kids are looking for ways to get high. It's nothing

YORK -- More than a month ago, a Fort Mill teen played Russian
roulette with her life.

"A beautiful 17-year-old had taken two hits of "Mary Joy," York County
Sheriff Bruce Bryant said Tuesday.

Those hits of Mary Joy, one of several names for synthetic marijuana,
made the teen so ill she wound up in the hospital.

"She was incoherent and exhibiting extreme paranoia and anxiety,
involuntary muscle jerking and elevated heart rate and blood
pressure," Bryant said. "The girl could have died."

The incident is not isolated to Fort Mill, said Keith Wilks of the
Rock Hill school district.

"There have been two instances (in Rock Hill schools) of possession,"
Wilks said about synthetic marijuana. "One was high school. One was
middle school."

State and local leaders don't want to lose a young person to synthetic
marijuana, a combination of spice and herbal products sprayed with
"potent psychotropic drugs." It is sold legally in Rock Hill
conveniences stores and neighboring Charlotte businesses, but change
is on the way.

"Effective Christmas Day, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) will
make it officially banned in the United States," Winthrop University
Police Chief Frank Zebedis said Tuesday during an informational
breakfast at the Moss Justice Center in York. "That's at the federal

"We can only enforce at general sessions court level," Zebedis said.
"It's very important that we get it through legislation."

The federal ban is not a permanent fix, he said.

"It will only be in effect for 12 months with the ability to be
extended six months," Zebedis said.

Last week, the Fort Mill school board adopted a resolution to ban
synthetic marijuana. A few days later, the South Carolina School Board
Association took a stance.

"We passed a resolution encouraging state legislators to ban synthetic
marijuana," said Diane Dasher, a member of Fort Mill school board and
York County All On Board Coalition.

Coalition members, along with local law enforcement and community
leaders, are gearing up to take their request to Columbia.

"We hope that we bring awareness and some action to do whatever we
have to do locally to get this K2, Spice and other synthetic marijuana
products off the streets and out of the hands of our youth," said Jane
Alleva, director of All On Board Coalition.

The move is about stopping people from sniffing or otherwise digesting
the drug that can smell like spices or fruit.

"This is a dangerous new trend," said Janet Martini of Keystone. "We
are not only seeing K2 use in our teens but also in our adults as it
is becoming widespread each day."

Using synthetic marijuana, she said, is risky business akin to Russian

"You just don't know what you're going to get," she said. Side effects
could include slipping into a coma, hallucinations or death.

A move is growing to make selling and using synthetic marijuana
illegal in the state.

"I think it's wonderful," said S.C. Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill. "It
sends a message."

Hayes has prefiled a bill in the state Senate to ban synthetic

"You can count on me," he said. "It's important for the community to
get mobilized, stay mobilized and push legislation to do this."

Without the bill, the legal sales and abuse of synthetic marijuana
will continue to be a nightmare, Bob Norwood, chairman of the
coalition and the Rock Hill school board.

"Kids are looking for ways to get high. It's nothing new," Norwood
said. "We would like for this to be a wake-up call for our community.
We need to leave here willing to do whatever it takes to protect our
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