New types of synthetic pot being sold at stores

May 2, 2012 8:44:05 PM PDT
The sale of synthetic marijuana was banned by the state of Texas a little over a year ago. So why is it back on store shelves in Houston tonight?

Twenty-six-year-old Will Knickle is lucky to be alive. He has been doing drugs since he was a kid.

"So I started using probably around 12," he said.

He's been arrested, been put on probation, been forced to submit to drug tests. But even that didn't stop him. Knickle found a way to circumvent the tests by smoking synthetic pot. He bought stuff like Primo, Killa Gorilla, Killa Skunk and Brain-Freeze. But you may recognize it by what it used to be called --- K2 and Spice.

Now, this new form is being sold in smoke shops all over Houston.

"Once I found out I didn't come up dirty, it was just something I could pretty much walk in and be like I'm high and there is nothing you can do about it," Knickle said.

Urine analysis doesn't test for the man made compounds found in synthetic pot. So Knickle kept using, until one day.

"I started sweating real bad and it felt like the first time I ODed on heroin," he said. "My vision started going blurry, and like I said, I could feel my heart slowing down."

Knickle's bad trip is a story health professionals are hearing over and over.

"It's a dangerous bag to open" said Dr. Jason Powers with The Right Step.

Dr. Powers says since not all synthetic pot is regulated, you never know what each bag will bring.

"They will put in Sudafed and they will put in God knows what, and in the same batch one time you smoke it, it may not do that much then, the next time you get a huge dose of the active ingredient and the adulterants and then that can cause problems with the heart and even cardiac arrest," Dr. Powers said.

The Southeast Texas Poison Control has taken as many as a 600 calls in a month, with most coming from right here in Harris County.

"Now that's down to about a third of that but it's beginning to go up and down. It certainly went down when Texas banned a number of these synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic marijuana drugs," said John Thompson, director of Southeast Texas Poison Control.

Last year, Texas lawmakers banned over 140 different compounds found in products like K2 or Spice. But substances that carry similar effect are back on store shelves; the compounds and the names have simply been changed.

"Many police departments, many police officers, sheriff's departments came and testified for this bill. I don't understand why they're not enforcing it now. They have the legal grounds to enforce it," Sen. Florence Shapiro said.

But local law enforcement tell us it's tough to regulate. The synthetic pot is being sold everywhere, and they have no quick means of proving what is and what isn't on the banned substance list.

"For us, it usually requires us sending it to a lab, to a crime lab and having them analyze it and then finding out what chemicals are in it and find out if it's any of the chemicals that are currently ban," said Josh Bruegger with the Pasadena Police Department.

We sent an ABC 13 producer undercover to several smoke shops around town. They all said the same thing.

"Didn't they ban some of this stuff?" we asked one clerk.

"Yeah, they put a different formula or whatever," the clerk replied.

And get this, you don't have to be 18 to buy it.

"The biggest thing is availability; it's legal so they can walk into the store and get it, where marijuana is a little harder to get. And so with this, it's legal," Bruegger said.

For will Knickle, his days of smoking synthetic pot are over. He says he has been drug-free for a year and a-half now and wants all of it taken off the streets. He hopes drug users heed his warning.

"It's not good. This fake stuff, there is something wrong with it. I don't know exactly what it is," Knickle said.

Texas is one of 23 states that have passed laws trying to ban synthetic pot, but Sen. Shapiro believes it will take the backing and the funding of the federal government before it can be truly be policed.

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