Pubdate: Thu, 04 Aug 2016
Source: Tucson Weekly (AZ)
Copyright: 2016 Tucson Weekly
Author: Nick Meyers


The Legal Synthetic 'Weed' That Kills

As any republican with truly conservative beliefs will tell you, 
government intervention leads to negative consequences. In the case 
of prohibition, it leads to black markets that, without the option of 
regulation, create more harmful scenarios than their potentially 
legal analogues.

There is perhaps no greater example of this in our current events 
than that of marijuana prohibition and the consequent market for a 
dangerous synthetic called "spice."

It's the same argument the right often uses to keep their fingers 
tightly wrapped around the triggers of their beloved assault rifles: 
"If you make it illegal, then only criminals will have them leaving 
law-abiding Americans in a dangerous situation."

Prior to the classification of spice as a Schedule I drug by the DEA 
in 2013, this was very much the case concerning the synthetic 
cannaboid, a potentially deadly yet legal alternative to the still 
very illegal threat posed by marijuana.

Since then, however, in lieu of a less-dangerous, legal substitution, 
hundreds have been turning to the easily-acquired imitation 
marijuana-an unintended consequence of the continuing federal ban on 
recreational marijuana.

Unlike marijuana, however, this synthetic blend of chemicals-often 
made by tossing them in with various herbs in a cement mixer-has 
directly contributed to more deaths than marijuana ever has. (Still 
zero, by the way.)

These deaths are the result of inconsistent doses of the chemicals 
used in the manufacture of spice due to its inconsistent nature.

A recent example of this negative consequences comes from the 
surprising discovery by DEA agents of a spice lab in Maricopa county 
that used Fentanyl to lace its product.

"A very small amount of this can cause overdose deaths," DEA Special 
Agent Doug Coleman said. "You could get a leaf with 50 micrograms on 
it while another leaf could have two on it. If you get the one with 
50, you're a goner."

The discovery came a little more than a week before a multi-state 
raid by the ATF, FBI and DEA in Tucson, Denver and Long Beach, Calif.

The raid consisted of 32 federal search warrants and resulted in 18 arrests.

Several of the warrants targeted local Tucson businesses that were 
suspected in either the sale or manufacture of spice.

Those businesses include Smoke 4 Less and Chihuahua Market on South 
12th Avenue, Smoke Shop and Prince Markets on East and West Prince 
Road, Smoke Shop on East Prince Road and Tobacco & More on East 30th Street.

According to Tucson Fire Department Capt. Barrett Baker, the monthly 
average of spice overdose calls ranges from 30 in slower months to 65 
in more recent months. Since May 1, the TFD has reported 192 calls 
for spice overdoses.

Tucson city councilmembers Steve Kozachik and Regina Romero intend to 
propose to the council a ban on the sale of the substance in addition 
to current state laws. However, this would not change the legality of 
spice in South Tucson and areas of unincorporated Pima County.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers has documented an 
increase in exposures to spice from 2,668 in 2013 to 7,794 in 2015. 
So far in 2016, the AAPCC has recorded 1,682 exposures.

As a recreational marijuana initiative heads to the ballot in 
November-pending its current legal challenge-we'd do well to consider 
the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition and weigh them 
against the effects of legalization in Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

While we've seen positive economic effects in Colorado and societal 
effects are still inconclusive, we can at least agree that the 
elimination of yet one more black market is beneficial no matter on 
which side of the issue you stand.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom