By Vivienne St. John
The youth today in the United States have great potential to experiment with a seemingly harmless synthetic version of cannabis called Spice, aka ‘K2.’ Recently there have been accounts of nearly fatal reactions after smoking the product. This product is legal and being sold in head shops in Arcata and Eureka as incense or potpourri. Spice is a synthetic chemical compound used to imitate the feelings cannabis would provide. This substance is sprayed onto dried plants. Countries in Europe, South America and Asia have already banned it. Spice can cause the opposite effects one would desire with cannabis such as anxiety, dependency, and nausea. Some more dangerous reactions include palpitations, increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as delusions and hallucinations.
With cannabis being one of the largest exports in Humboldt County, one would wonder why a resident here would experiment with it. Well, it is legal and isn’t tested for in the majority of drug tests. Though some professional and college sports teams have began testing for it, spice remains a popular product. Some students at the Humboldt State University recall their experiences with spice. According to Jacine Litchell, 19, who has smoked spice three times, the first time was the least scary.
“I was just walking when everything went black,” Litchell said. “I tripped all over the place knocking over CDs and things.” The second time she experienced with spice she had nausea, and the last time Litchell went into a temporary state of paralysis. She recovered once the spice wore off.
Joseph Schimmel, 18, recalls smoking spice with some friends in his hometown, Carmel Valley, when one had a very severe reaction. The police and fire departments were called to the scene.
“Right when I touched him his heart had one rapid beat and then he tensed up,” Schimmel said. “We moved him to ground. He was locked up and trying to swallow his tongue. His arms were stiff and he was having a massive seizure.”
Doctors, retailers and parents are perplexed why their children might be experimenting with this synthetic drug. Some families have strict policies concerning marijuana that can lead a child to experiment with something possibly more harmful. According to former manager of No Hassle Pipe & Tobacco shop and employee at a head shop in Eureka, Daniel Bovee, spice isn’t a regular purchase.
“The majority of customers we get asking for spice are just athletes or students on probation in the case of a random, routine drug test,” Bovee said. “Sometimes it’s high school kids. They’re too young though and wouldn’t know how to properly handle themselves in case of a bad situation.”
The chemical compounds that make up spice are various cannaboid receptors that imitate the sensation of marijuana. These chemicals are fake, man-made and falsely marketed. It is not enough to tell the youth to be aware of the harmful effects, experts caution. If one had a pre-existing medical issues, no matter how small or insignificant the chances of problems to occur is much greater.
Humboldt County produces lots of marijuana that can be used for medical purposes and maintaining the county’s profit.
“Spice doesn’t replace marijuana,” Bovee said. “Especially up here. I’ve never smoked it and I hope I never do.”