The serious injury attorneys of Passen & Powell would like to warn all our friends and readers about a dangerous and potentially deadly product gaining popularity in the Chicago area: incense containing synthetic cannabinoids. These products, although not marketed as such, are designed to be smoked or ingested for a “high” – and are increasingly being used in this fashion by young people in the area.
These dangerous incenses are sold under brand names such as K2, Spice, Space, Spaz, Spiz, Headtrip, Kush, Cush, Sweet Lucy, Kanabliss Max, Ultra Weekend, and Mr. Miyagi’s Warpaint Zero, and can be in any number of scents. The incense itself resembles a dried, leafy substance. This substance is spraid with synthetic cannabinoids. Packaging is often plastic, two inches by three inches, and can be in a variety of colors. They sell for from ten to fifty dollars a gram.
These dangerous products are available both online and in local Chicagoland stores. Although labeled as incense (and often labeled “not intended for human consumption”), those who sell and purchase these products are well-aware that they are intended for smoking, and ingestion, to produce a “high.”
Why are these products so popular? As the name “synthetic cannabinoids” suggests, eating or smoking these products can produce effects similar to natural cannabis.
So, what makes this incense so dangerous? Like cannabis, the product has side effects. In the case of synthetic cannabis, these side effects can include dizziness, euphoria, and hallucinations. But side effects can also include elevated heart rate, disorientation, convulsions, anxiety attacks, increased blood pressure, and vomiting. Use of this incense has already resulted in many hospitalizations, and several fatalities.
Unlike natural marijuana, there have been no studies, peer-reviewed or otherwise, evaluating the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids. Also unlike marijuana, there have been no studies demonstrating, or even informal reports of, any health benefits from using these products.
Indeed, Dr. John Huffman, the university professor who developed the substances as part of a research project, emphasizes that there are no studies on the safety of these compounds. He likens the use of the products to “Russian roulette” and urges consumers to never use the products as a recreational drug.
Right now, only a few of the substances in this product are covered under the controlled substances act (and are thus illegal). But chemists are creating new variations faster than the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency can ban them. Legislative efforts are underway to ban both the sale and possession of all these synthetic cannabinoids, but the danger is already present.
Our experienced brain injury attorneys urge consumers, and particularly parents, to become familiar with these products and their dangers. In many cases, these incense brands list their ingredients on the packaging – but do not include the synthetic cannabinoids, either by that name or by their chemical names. Indeed, many of the packages explicitly state that they do not contain synthetic cannabinoids.
The incense industry has now formed a lobbying group, the Coalition for Cognitive Liberty, to protect the “rights” of the incense industry to continue unregulated. The group has already pledged to fight the DEA ban, and several state bans already in place. It argues that banning these products would result in a dangerous black market for these products. What this argument ignores, of course, is that any market for these products is dangerous – as amply demonstrated by the deaths which have already occurred.
While the industry maintains that that these substances are “fragrance enhancers,” all evidence points to industry awareness of the actual purpose and use of these products – including statements on the website of the Coalition for Cognitive Liberty. Particularly due to the misleading packaging of these products, it may be possible for those injured by the use of these products to hold these businesses accountable. We encourage anyone injured by these dangerous products to speak to a qualified attorney. Perhaps the threat of civil liability will force these reckless companies to stop gambling with public health, and the lives of our young people.
If you have any questions about a personal injury or wrongful death matter, please give us a call us at 312-527-4500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation. You can also learn more by following us on Twitter, reviewing our LinkedIn or Avvo.com pages, and by reviewing our website.