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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Wilder, Scott

Office of Communications Director 
News Date: 10/26/2010 

 Synthetic Cannabinoid 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Haines City Police Department, and  Office of the State Attorney 10th Judicial Circuit announce imminent criminal enforcement of products sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids: K2, “Spice,” and others.

“These synthetic marijuana products are not just being sold to adults throughout Polk County, they are routinely sold to our kids,” said Sheriff Judd.  “K2, Spice, or whatever this stuff is packaged as, is being sold as incense or potpourri, but the sellers clearly know it is being smoked with the purpose of getting high.  Because the wholesalers are telling retail stores that it is ‘legal’ to sell this drug, we are providing this warning to stores in Polk County:  stop selling this product today, or you will be arrested for selling an imitation controlled substance, a third degree felony.”

Sheriff Grady Judd announced today that the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Haines City Police Department, working in cooperation with the State Attorney’s Office, 10th Judicial Circuit, will begin criminal enforcement of sales of synthetic cannabinoids.  These substances are packaged as “herbal incense” or “potpourri” and claims on packaging state they are not intended for human consumption.  The packages contain herbs, spices, and various types of dried plant material sprayed with (chemical) synthetic cannabinoids.  The products are informally marketed as synthetic marijuana, widely discussed on the Internet, and overtly marketed on the Internet as “synthetic marijuana.”   These synthetic cannabinoid compounds are known by several different chemical names, including:  JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP 47/497, JWH-081, JWH-250, HU-211, HU-210, and other similar chemicals.

“The compounds in Spice work on the brain in the same way as marijuana's active ingredient THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. Both JWH compounds bind to the CB1 receptors, which primarily affect the central nervous system.”


–“Information on Spice” Scientific Evidence of its Pharmacological Effect, Office of Drug Policy, Oregon. 

The Missouri Poison Center has identified more than 25 cases of youth (ranging in ages from 14 to 21 years old) who, after smoking K2, presented to emergency departments with the following adverse symptoms: agitation, anxiety, tachycardia, hypertension, vomiting, and hallucinations.  (“K2: Coming Soon to your ER,” Missouri Poison Center).  K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids represent a danger to those smoking the unregulated ingredients—there are no short or long-term studies related to determining whether or not there are any adverse health effects of smoking these products.

No regulations exist regarding the sale of, safety, or contents of “K2/Spice” and similar products—there is no requirement to list packaging contents or ingredient amounts because the product purports that it is “not for human consumption.”  Researchers have observed that when smoked, synthetic cannabinoids can deliver a high similar to marijuana.  Consumption of synthetic cannabinoids causes impairment of human motor skills and changes the ability of a person to perceive, reason, and understand. According to University of Florida Pharmacologist Dr. Tonia Werner, the synthetic cannabinoid chemicals found in K2 have “psychotropic effects which can cause motor impairment and changes in their cognition.”  Physical withdrawal and dependence syndrome have also been observed after repeated consumption of “Spice.”  Organic chemist John W. Huffman, who developed the “JWH” compounds as a part of research related to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, is quoted as saying “People who use it are idiots...” and “It’s like playing Russian roulette.  You don’t know what it’s going to do to you…you’re a potential winner of a Darwin award” (referring to mock awards given to people who do very unwise things thereby  ‘removing themselves from the gene pool’) (www.msnbc.com, and www.foxnews.com). 

K2, “Spice,” and other similar products tend to be sold at independently owned gas stations, convenience stores, and other small retailers.  The products are sold under various names and marketing gimmicks, including:  Mister Happy Time (with a smiley face on the package), K2-Grape, K2-Blue, K2-Pink, K2-Orange, K2-Pineapple, K2-Cloud Nine, K2-Blonde, K2-Crush, Spike Diamond, K3-Black Mamba, K3 Kryptonite, and K3-Dynamite.  Local prices for about 3 grams of product range from $15 to $20.  The products are clearly marketed toward juveniles and young adults.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported in September of 2010, that synthetic cannabinoids, or “fake marijuana,” spurred more than 1,500 calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers in the United States (1,503 calls from January, 2010 through September 27, 2010).  As of October, 2010, 13 U.S. States and 17 Countries have banned synthetic cannabinoids.  Some cities and counties have passed local ordinances to ban the products.  A number of state health-related boards have determined that synthetic cannabinoids present a risk to public health (Oregon, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, and others).  Legislation is being proposed for the Florida 2011 legislative session to classify synthetic cannabinoids such as K-2 as an illegal narcotic.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives have submitted samples of the K2 products purchased locally to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab.  The FDLE lab results confirm that both JWH-018 and JWH-073 were found in the samples. 

PCSO and HCPD detectives, working with attorneys at the State Attorney’s Office, 10th Judicial Circuit, have determined that the sale of K2/Spice, and other similar products containing synthetic cannabinoids is currently illegal under Florida Statue 817.564, titled:  “Imitation controlled substances defined; possession and distribution prohibited.”  The Sheriff’s Office, Haines City Police Department, and the State Attorney’s Office will begin criminal investigations regarding any future sale of K2/Spice (and similar products) in Polk County.