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Con: People have right to use synthetic marijuana

By Gheni_Platenburg
Sept. 5, 2010 at 4:05 a.m.


What is SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA?Known as marijuana homologs, synthetic marijuana or just fake pot, the incenses are a mixture of herbs and spices sprayed with a chemical compound similar to the one found in marijuana.

Instead of using the incense for its intended purposes, an increasing number of buyers are inhaling and ingesting the product.

According to research done in 2010 by the Texas Poison Center Network, the synthetic compounds most commonly found in synthetic marijuana include JWH-018, JWH-073, CP-47, CP-497 and HU-210, all of which mimic the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Sold in head shops, truck stops and via the Internet, the incenses are sold under a variety of brand names including K2, Spice, Kush, Serenity Now, Supernova, Yucatan Fire and one of the most popular brands, Mr. Nice Guy.

The products have grown in popularity due to its failure to show up in urinalysis tests.

The products first began showing up in the U.S. around a year ago.

However, many of the JWH chemicals, which are basic components of all the different synthetic marijuana brands, were synthesized in the 1990s.

In addition to synthetic marijuana being banned on all U.S. military installations, at least 10 U.S. states have some form of a ban on the synthetic marijuana.

Texas is one of the leading states using synthetic marijuana in the U.S., according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Utah, Missouri, Indiana and Georgia are also on the list.

Bans are even being seen on the local level, with several cities that have signed ordinances.

Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure hopes to create an ordinance banning the herbal incense.

As of Monday, however, nothing has been presented to the city council or city attorney.

Victoria is considering an ordinance to ban the product, which is sold in at least nine area stores.

It is also banned in European countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Poland and France.

It's like being on top of the world.

At least that is how Victoria resident Latisha Luna described her first couple of experiences smoking herbal incense, aka synthetic marijuana.

"The first hit, I felt a whoosh all over my body like I was floating," said the 23-year-old. "I couldn't quit laughing for a little bit. After that, I was relaxed and full of energy."

Luna admitted to trying three different brands one time each. However, for her, the third time was not a charm.

"I felt anxiety, paranoia, and it felt like I couldn't breath. It really scared me," said Luna, who was scared the incense could have aggravated her heart murmur.

Despite having a bad experience with one of the brands, however, she continues to advocate for the product to remain legal.

In fact, she continues to sell it at Needful Things, a local novelty store that has been selling the incenses for the last two years.

"I don't like it, but I'm not going to discourage it," said Luna. "I feel, personally, if you have not tried it, then you have no room to say don't do it."

For many local proprietors of the incenses, finding customers who want to purchase the product is not a problem.

Donna Shook, owner of D&D Novelties, said she racks in $8,000 to $10,000 a month from incense sales alone.

"It's going big time. It's even surpassing porn and adult toys," said Shook. "I mainly sell it because there has been a huge request among my customers."

At Needful Things, the products range in price from $12.99 to $69.99, with Supernova being the most popular brand, said Luna.

However, Mr. Nice Guy and a brand called Hydro, which supposedly has more nutrients and is more potent because it is grown over water, are rapidly gaining more fans.

Use of the product is not limited to one demographic.

Luna said she gets people from all walks of life, including those from high-income jobs.

"For people in high-paying jobs, it's good because it doesn't show up in tests," said Luna.

Victoria resident Tino Tobar, 22, said he prefers using the synthetic marijuana versus the real thing.

"It really was the same thing. Regular weed gets you higher than this, though," said Tobar about his experience smoking fake pot. "If I had to choose between the real thing and this, I'd choose this because you can't get in trouble for it."

Meanwhile, Shook, who only sells her products to clients ages 18 and up, said her largest customer base for the products are veterans.

"I have quite a few customers who are veterans and they have nightmares from serving in the military. The Veterans Administration won't help medically so they turn to the incense to help," said Shook. "I'll do whatever I can to help the veterans with this because the VA sure isn't."

"There's no shame in buying it. They are happy about using something," she said.

Many of the products clearly indicate on the label that the product is not for human consumption.

However, Shook said she has no control over how her clients use the products.

"When they go out the door, it's their business what they do with it, whether they smoke it or use it for aromatherapy," she said.

It is unknown whether there have been any herbal incense-related deaths in Texas.

If there were, Shook said, she would stop selling the products.

"From my research, nobody has ever died from K2," said Shook. "If I knew I was selling something that was killing people, then I wouldn't do it."

She added, "I have morals."

Local proprietors said they were against a ban. However, none have done any formal protesting against it.

For Shook, the thought of a potential ban does not bother her much, as replacements are already being formulated.

"There's alternatives already being made that are coming out on the market," said Shook. "They can ban JW all they want. New ones will just come out."

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