Synthetic pot sparks concern
TAMPA – It comes in different brands and packages, but it’s generally known as “K2,” or “spice.” It’s all the rage for teens who want to get high, and now many of them are showing up at the emergency room.
Anyone can buy K2 or spice products because they are legal and available at convenience stores and gas stations.
Across the street from St. Petersburg High School, the Bula Cafe advertises a product they say is better than K2.
The manager says it’s incense — something called “Mary Joy,” priced from $10 a gram to $17 a gram. It says on the back “not approved for human consumption.”
But the manager says he won’t sell this “incense” to anyone under 18.
At the Rockin Card and Gift Store in Pinellas Park, K2 is big business.
“We’re probably gonna gross on this particular product in one year over $200,000,” said store owner Randy Heine.
Heine, who also favors legalization of marijuana for people 21 and over, says the state should license and regulate stores that sell K2.
“It’s sold as incense , but these stores are selling it to anyone who has the money. And that’s the problem. Kids? Kids! And this is how it ends up in schools and gives cops an argument,” Heine said.
Emergency room doctors are sounding a warning about K2, saying it’s become popular with teenagers, and they are seeing more and more of them coming in for treatment.
“We’re seeing kids come in by ambulance, with their friends, and we’re seeing kids come in after abuse of this,” says Dr. Patrick Mularoni, an emergency room physician at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Many of the products are labeled as incense or potpourri, and not approved by the FDA for human consumption. The products sell for $10 dollars per gram or more.
Dr. Mularoni says the effects of the drug can be similar to marijuana. But, he says, high doses can cause things like fast heart rate, anxiety, agitation, and even psychosis.
“We don’t know when they’re spraying this potpourri with chemicals,” says Dr. Mularoni. “You don’t know the purity of what you’re getting. It’s more dangerous than marijuana,” says Mularoni.
But Heine says most of his synthetic marijuana customers are 40 or over. He says the state should regulate, license and tax synthetic marijuana for sale to people 21 and older. He says regulation would help ensure the product is safe. Heines says he’s angry that the substance is being sold to minors.
K2 is already banned in 13 states, but not in Florida. No one knows exactly what brands have what chemicals, and for now, this pseudo pot is selling big.