LCSN: Spice: Uncontrolled substance killing residents, dividing communities

January31, 2016. Retrieved online February 9, 2016 from Damien Willis,, Las Cruces Sun-News

[Excerpts below reprinted with permission: Read the complete Las Cruces Sun-News article]

LAS CRUCES – To many in law enforcement, it seems like an impossible problem to tackle — like rolling a boulder up a mountain. And the idea of legislating a solution is bleak.

Las Cruces, like the rest of the nation, has seen a rise in the use of synthetic drugs in recent years. Synthetic cannabinoids, commonly referred to as Spice or K2, dates to 1984, when John William Hoffman, a Stanford University organic chemist, developed 450 synthetic cannabinoid compounds that mimic the effects of marijuana by similarly targeting endocannabinoid receptors.

In the late 2000s, two of those compounds began being marketed and sold as legal marijuana alternatives, known as K2 and Spice. In the years since, those name brands have become genericized and are often used to refer to synthetic cannabinoids more broadly.

Empty foil packets that contained the drug Spice are found near the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope. The drug is sold as "potpourri" and "herbal incense" in packaging with names such as Afghan Ice and Purple Flake. (Photo: Jett Loe / Sun-News)

Empty foil packets that contained the drug Spice are found near the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope. The drug is sold as “potpourri” and “herbal incense” in packaging with names such as Afghan Ice and Purple Flake.
(Photo: Jett Loe / Sun-News)

High overdose risk

Because Spice is often marketed as “herbal incense,” in packets marked “not for human consumption,” it is not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The product — typically a benign leafy organic, like coltsfoot, damiana or mugwort, sprayed or doused in chemicals including the synthetic cannabinoid — varies widely in potency between products and batches. For these reasons, the risk of overdosing is high.

Exploring solutions

“We need to stop blaming the victims of these synthetics, and start going after the true perpetrators — which are the businesses that are concocting these formulas that are uncertified by the FDA or USDA,” said David Boje, a professor in New Mexico State University’s College of Business. Boje is an organizer of Veterans’ Theater, a local theater troupe comprised of homeless and once-homeless vets. The group recently performed “Early Christmas,” a play on the dangers of Spice, and its effects on military personnel and the homeless population.

“One way to target businesses is to start revoking the business licenses of the retail establishments, the companies that are mixing the product together, and the chemical importers. There’s a whole network that needs to be targeted,” Boje said.


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