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Synthetic marijuana seized at two businesses

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

239 packages of illegal synthetic marijuana recovered by Highland Police, Hardy Police and Sharp County Sheriff's Department at Highland Health Mart Sept. 1.
Two Sharp County businesses were targeted by local law enforcement for selling synethetic marijuana, an illegal substance in the state of Arkansas as of Sept. 1.

Highland Police Chief Jeremy Stevens and Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose, in collaboration with the Sharp County Sheriff's Department, confiscated 239 packets of the substance with names such as Demon, Green Cobre and Bayou Blaster, among others, at the Highland Health Mart.

Owner Robin Baker was warned not to sell the substance or face losing his business license in the city. Stevens said, "I advised him on behalf of the city, after consulting with the mayor, if he were caught selling contraband he would lose his license."

Stevens said there had been a buy from the business, and the merchandise had been sent to the state crime lab for testing.

The "Demon" brand of the synthetic marijuana tested "chemically similar" to marijuana, and has been banned by a statewide law prohibiting the sale of the product, which many label as potpourri. Stevens said a representative from the crime lab would testify to the content of the product.

Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose said he had numerous complaints from both children and adults over several months about the substance and its effects. He said he contacted the sheriff's office because a second business named Potpourri, Etc. was also allegedly selling the synthetic marijuana.

After the business moved into the Hardy area and obtained a business license within his jurisdiction, Rose said he spoke with the owner, called the health department, as well as having Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts consult with Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce about the matter.

Once it was determined by both the health department and the prosecutor's office the substance was illegal, Rose said he visited with the owner and asked her not to sell the merchandise.

The owner explained the products are plainly labeled not for human consumption. Rose said, "If a person lights it and inhales, that is the same as consumption."

Rose seized the business license of Potpourri, Etc. by the authorization of the mayor.

Mayor Nina Thornton then called the business owner and explained she is welcome to sell anything in her store, as long as it is not an illegal substance, such as the synethetic marijuana. Rose said she is free to come to city hall and get her license back as long as she doesn't sell contraband items any longer.

Synethetic marijuana is sold under many brand names and most who have smoked the substance report a high much stronger than that of marijuana, with many reporting hallucenations.

The substance was first banned in Sharp County through a May, 2010 ordinance passed by the Quorum Court. The statewide ban just took effect last week.

The substance is a lab created compound made to mimic THC, the chemical in marijuana. Until May 9, 2010, the compound could be purchased very easily and its effects vary with weight, age and user.

There have been numerous incidents in schools regarding the use of the substance. Some of the results include a local rollover accident, which sent the driver to the hospital in critical condition. Law enforcement recovered several packages of K2 from the vehicle.

A student at an area high school was reported by school officials to have had fits of rage, and then running from the building. Students questioned told law enforcement the student had recently smoked K2. Schools all maintain that any offense with either drugs or anything that alters a student in a similar manner will be treated as drug offenses.

The dangerous product is produced in both China and Korea. It was first created in the lab after studying the chemical makeup of THC, the key ingredient in marijuana which produces the high. Herbs are sprayed with a chemical during their growth process. The chemical, may or may not increase in strength after packaging or take on other chemical factors that have yet to be studied.

The substances have also been banned in Europe, as well as in the military.

A Witchita State University chemist, David Eichhorn, analysed samples of the compound and said, "One of the ingredients in there is one that could potentially get across the blood/brain barrier and the reality is, if you play around with these types of compounds, you run the risk of seriously upsetting the balance of the brain."

Other issues include the fact that there is no quality control for the product in the United States, and it is impossible to determine the origin of the chemicals and the manner in which they were processed.

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