The dangers of synthetic marijuana

Published 11:23 am Sunday, September 6, 2015

By Ken Paxton
Whether the drug is marketed as “K-2,” “Spice,” or some other nickname, the cheap thrill some young Texans are getting from synthetic marijuana could cost them their lives. Tragic reports are coming in about high school-aged students from Lake Conroe, Houston, Plano and other communities across Texas either dying or becoming very sick after taking drugs that are deceptively sold as being “safe,” “natural,” and “legal.”

Synthetic marijuana is a growing problem, and its distribution and use have become a considerable challenge for law enforcement officials. In 2011, the Texas Legislature took action, declaring specific compounds that are often used to make synthetic marijuana illegal. However, drug dealers have evaded those laws by slightly changing the ingredients of certain designer drugs, so the definitions in statute no longer apply. Furthermore, some stores simply disregard the law, and the safety of their customers, by selling synthetic marijuana containing illegal chemical compounds at low prices.

Synthetic marijuana may be labeled as “lab certified” or “containing no prohibited chemicals or materials,” and list “natural” ingredients such as “passion flower,” and “lemon balm.” Unfortunately for unsuspecting users, manufacturers and distributors fail to list other key ingredients, such as AB-CHMINACA, which is highly addictive and extremely dangerous.

My office is currently working with local law enforcement officials conducting undercover operations to crack down on those who sell synthetic marijuana. I am committed to combatting this growing threat in Texas by suing these sellers for engaging in deceptive trade practices, as they are clearly misleading consumers with claims that these products are legal and safe.

On September 1, we will get additional weapons to keep these drugs off the street when Senate Bill 461 goes into effect. This bill amends current law relating to false or misleading packaging, labeling or advertising of certain synthetic substances, and authorizes the Office of the Attorney General or a district, county, or city attorney to institute an action in district court to collect a civil penalty from a person who produces, distributes, sells or offers for a sale a mislabeled, abusable synthetic substance. This bill allows for additional civil penalties and creates a new criminal offense, all in an effort to stop these thugs who are looking to make a few dollars off naïve users.

Unfortunately, there are too many bright, young Texans willing to engage in risky behavior simply because they do not understand the real dangers that exist and the problems that may result from their actions. I encourage everyone to candidly talk to the young people in their family, church and community about the potential harm that could result from abusing either legal or illegal drugs, and let them know that using synthetic marijuana and other drugs – even once – could cost them their lives.

Ken Paxton is the Texas Attorney General