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Entries in Weed (2)

Thursday
Jun022011

Amazon.com Sells 'Legal Pot'

Amazon.com(WASHINGTON) -- Products that mimic the effects of marijuana and have potentially dangerous side effects are being sold via popular online shopping web sites like Amazon.com, and at suburban malls, convenience stores, and gas stations.

High school students and members of the military use "legal marijuana" or "herbal incense," marketed as K2, Spice, and Potpourri, to get high because the products are legal, easily available, and do not show up on drug tests.

They can also be inexpensive. "Purple Diesel Spice - Twisted Pourri," packaged with a bright purple label, sells for just $7.99 per gram via Amazon. An ABC News investigation found these products available online and at stores for anywhere from $15 to $85. Amazon.com did not respond to requests for comment.

The innocuous sounding names belie the ugly and sometimes devastating side effects, according to Missouri Poison Control Center Director Anthony Scalzo. Scalzo said the side effects include heart rate stimulation to exaggerated levels, extreme blood pressure elevation, agitation, paranoia, and hallucinations. "Beyond the acute effects [there] are psychiatric effects that have led individuals to harm themselves, sometimes fatally, and exhibit extreme paranoia and delusions not unlike schizophrenia or other psychoses," said Scalzo.

The products have spurred more than 4,000 calls to poison control centers around the country since 2010 and have been linked to deaths. The parents of 18-year-old David Rozga of Indianola, Iowa say their son committed suicide after he smoked K2 and became overwhelmed with anxiety.

"He just continued to become agitated -- indicating that he felt like he was in hell," said David's father Mike Rozga. Detective Sergeant Brian Sher, who investigated Rozga's death for the Indianola Police Department, is adamant that smoking K2 is the only thing that could have triggered the suicide. "I want people to know that," said Sher. "There are nay-sayers, but I can say definitively there's just nothing in the investigation to show that. Given what we know about K2 and Spice, David's anxiety, his feeling like he was in hell, has happened in many other cases."

The business is truly multinational, but the "spice" road begins in China. ABC News tracked the trail of the chemicals back to laboratories outside Shanghai. An ABC News producer in Shanghai went undercover to meet with two factory representatives from Sciencya Laboratories at a park outside a downtown hotel, and was offered large quantities of the legal chemicals at $5800 a kilo with a speedy delivery time for her convenience.

"She said I should order about 10 kilos and arrival could happen through air mail in 4-7 days. And then she asked me to put them in my bag and not let people see them," said producer Rebecca Kanthor. The woman representing SciencYa also gave Kanthor samples of the chemicals.

Once manufacturers in the United States have bought the chemicals in bulk, mostly from China, they apply the chemicals to plant matter to create "spice" and other variants of "legal marijuana" or "herbal incense," then distribute their products either to wholesalers, directly to convenience stores, or to individuals who buy them on the internet.

ABC News found a wholesale operation in Denver that supplies a variety of products of all kinds to mom and pop shops in the area. An ABC News producer wearing a hidden camera recorded video of boxes of spice products in the back of the warehouse sold at bulk prices. A representative of the warehouse said his company is in the process of phasing out spice products and that it only sells products with legal chemicals in them.

Christopher Van Winkle, who went to state prison in 2006 for manufacturing and delivering marijuana, makes and markets his own brand of herbal incense, "Magnum," and sells it on his website, TheChemicalBay.com. He runs his operation out of apartment complex in a residential part of Bloomington, Illinois. Van Winkle did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.

Van Winkle, like most other herbal incense manufacturers, labels his products as "not for human consumption," which exempts them from regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

The laboratories in China also use language to avoid such regulation. The web site for a Shanghai pharmaceutical company, Chemchallenger, states "All products on this web site are only for research!" SciencYa Laboratories also says it sells only chemicals that have not been banned by U.S. law.

In March, the Drug Enforcement Administration imposed an emergency ban on five of chemicals that have shown up in some products, but there are hundreds more, and chemists can easily and quickly change the formula to escape a ban.

The chemicals are also manufactured in laboratories in Russia, India, and even Cameroon, making it difficult for the Drug Enforcement Agency to cut them off at the source.

"The web site may be located in one particular country or somewhere within the United States, but the actual product is being manufactured someplace else through an intermediary," said DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs.

"You really don't know exactly what the source of these products are," Boggs said, adding that there is no way to tell if there is any quality control at the labs.

"You don't know what conditions they were manufactured under. You don't know what kind of training the individuals had that are manufacturing these particular products."

Boggs said that greed is the driving force behind the making of these dangerous chemicals.

"Despite the fact that these products cause harm, many of these businesses are distributing these products solely for the profit that they can generate," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Stores Fight Proposed Federal Ban on Spice, 'Legal Marijuana'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Arguing that the government has no "right to regulate euphoria," a coalition of retail stores is fighting federal efforts to ban the sale of products that mimic the effects of marijuana, including K2, Spice, and Potpourri.

The products have become widely known to high school students and members of the military as "legal marijuana" that do not show up on drug tests and are sold at malls, convenience stores, and gas stations for between $15 and $85.

"I'd like to ask the government, what is wrong with euphoria and who gave them the right to regulate it," said Dan Francis, executive director of The Retail Compliance Association, a trade group that represents retail stores selling the chemical concoctions.

In an interview to be broadcast on ABC's 20/20 Friday, Francis says the K2 and Spice products "are much less dangerous than, let's say, peanuts" and other foods that can trigger allergic reactions.

Francis says the chemicals make users feel as good as "when you bite into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and you have that sensation of, 'Man, that's good.'" Francis did not concede that retailers were selling the products to be ingested, and said the euphoria may result from being in the room where the products are being burned.

But federal law enforcement officials and many doctors say the products -- using chemicals manufactured mostly in China and sprayed on incense and dried leaves that can be smoked -- are much more powerful than actual marijuana and can produce dangerous side effects.

"K2 and Spice are tremendously, tremendously psychoactive drugs," said Dr. M. David Lewis, the medical director of the Visions Adolescent Treatment Center in Malibu, California, one of many drug treatment centers that report being flooded by teens addicted to the so-called "legal marijuana."

"If you take a developing brain and you put a tremendously psychoactive substance in the middle of that, that developing brain, what you really have is a chemistry experiment," Dr. Lewis told 20/20.

In March, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, introduced legislation to ban the chemicals commonly used in producing the products.

"People are buying this drug so easily at the local mall or online that they think it's safe," said Grassley. "People, including a young Iowan, have died or been seriously injured because of this product."

Grassley's legislation is named for 18-year old David Rozga of Indianola, Iowa. Rozga's parents say he took his own life after smoking K2 purchased at a suburban shopping mall.

"They don't care who they hurt or what they do," said Rozga's father Mike in urging Congress to ban the chemicals.

The retail stores trade group says a ban would send the trade "underground" and is unnecessary since most stores will not sell to anyone under the age of 18.

"Teenagers don't belong touching this stuff," said the group's executive director Dan Francis.

Yet, as part of the 20/20 investigative report, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old wearing undercover cameras in New York and Los Angeles were easily able to buy K2 and Spice at retail stores.

The clerk of one store along Venice Beach in Los Angeles admitted he had not asked for any valid ID and conceded it was wrong for him to sell to a 16-year-old boy.

Asked about the possible consequences, the clerk told ABC News, "nothing good."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio