As federal marijuana prohibition continues, so does the practice of searching for its legal, or at the very least, easily obtainable substitute. To combat this, one city is cracking down on synthetic marijuana.
The outbreak of synthetic marijuana has become somewhat of an epidemic in its own right, with an influx of overdoses occurring over the last year. For a sample size, last July, there were over 150 people treated for K2 overdoses in the span of just a week.
The drug, which can be up to 800 times more powerful than traditional marijuana, is known for a plethora of ghastly side effects such as seizures, hallucinations, convulsions, kidney damage, in addition to a variety of psychological effects that could result in suicidal thoughts and violent, erratic behavior.
However, one small city in Indiana is taking a proactive approach to ending the epidemic once and for all, following a number of synthetic marijuana induced incidents over the past couple of years.
South Bend, Indiana has seen its fair share of synthetic marijuana horror stories. Last year, an incident where three kids were rushed to the hospital due, foaming at the mouth, due to a synthetic marijuana overdose, was enough to constitute a change.
“I thought one of them was having a seizure until I saw two others that were in a similar situation. We called paramedics, they made it. But it was a real wakeup call for me about just how harmful and dangerous some of these substances are,” said Southbend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Last year, Beacon Health says there were 1,300 visits to the ER last year because of the drug, a 300 person increase from the year prior.
As a result, synthetic marijuana was deemed illegal back in August. However, companies are finding loopholes to continue marketing their product. A simple recipe change can result in the product no longer being considered illegal, due to the difference in chemical makeup.
However, South Bend is unwilling to allow any such drugs slip through the crack. They had a meeting Thursday night with community members in order to raise awareness of the harmful drug, hoping that, even if there are some available in gas stations and convenience stores, people will have the wherewithal to say no.
“The individuals who are purchasing the synthetic marijuana, they’re not aware of the impact that it has on them. It’s cheap, they buy it and then they have to suffer the impact of it,” said Karen White, a South Bend councilwoman.
Currently, the city has mandated a fine between $250-$2,500 for any businesses caught selling synthetic marijuana. However, raising awareness has become the next step in getting the dangerous drugs off the street for good.
“A law and ordinance can only go so far. That’s why tonight’s community conversation is so important,” said Buttigieg.