Published on Mar 29, 2016
Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran’s Day commemorates the day when the last U.S. Troops left Vietnam, and Veterans across the country are finding different ways to deal with PTSD and other war-related struggles.
Veteran’s Theater in Las Cruces gives Veteran’s the opportunities to write and perform in stage shows and movies highlighting struggles faced by Veterans and the community at large.
Their latest film highlights the problems that come with the drug Spice, also known as synthetic marijuana or K2.
Spice is commonly sold in smoke shops and convenience stores, in packets marketed as “herbal incense” and marked “not for human consumption.” But can have harmful effects if smoked including confusion, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Dr. David Boje, Story Researcher for Veterans Theater and a Vietnam Veteran, says they chose to highlight the spice epidemic because it’s affecting veterans and the community at large.
“We went and worked with the community,” Boje said. “People that are veterans in transition getting housing, and people who are homeless and this was an issue on their spirit, and they really wanted to get at this. So, we started doing performances at the University Center for Performing Arts, Good Samaritan and Rio Grande Theater, and then we were asked to do this film for the city.”
Boje says they hope they can expand awareness of the issue with the film.
“It’s not just the homeless it affects,” Boje said. “The average user of these drugs, synthetic cannabinoids, is 13 years old. So, this stuff is being sold in middle schools, in high schools, students and the University.”
Las Cruces Police Department says between January 2014 and December 2015 they were called to 44 incidents of Inhaling Harmful Vapors, and 57% of them involved Spice.
Lieutenant Mike Alba says manufacturers can quickly change the chemical makeup or analog of the drug, making it hard for the government to keep up with which substances are classified as illegal.
“The FDA, the Food and Drug Administration actually governs what’s going on with these analogs that are being switched,” Alba said. “The chemists are coming and changing some of these things, so when that comes out we get a new list. If not every 6 months, to every year from the FDA of which analogs are actually illegal in the ingredients of spice and K2 that we’re seeing.”
Alba says right now the main way they are hoping to combat the problem is through public awareness.
“One with our schools,” Alba said. “Elementary from DARE classes, to going up and speaking at the high schools with our School Resource Officers. And also doing public awareness monthly, and also getting out good statistics for how are departments are handling some of these cases from the possession cases we can charge municipally to our metro narcotics that can give a little more example of the actual trafficking or distribution cases.”
Dr. Boje says they are hoping Las Cruces City Council will be able to create new local ordinances that can help curb the sale of these products.
“We wanted to get at the solutions,” Boje said. “It’s clear that we’re getting a lot of stories about the problems, the epidemic, but we really wanted to bring the issue out into the public arena with the city council, and the police, and see if something more could be done to educate the community and to crack down on the distributors.”
The Las Cruces City Council will be considering options for ordinances with the help of the Dona Ana District Attorney’s Office in the coming months.