Doug Terbeek, executive director of the Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County, said the sale of synthetic marijuana is common in convenience stores and gas stations in the Ticonderoga area.
Mark Carson was stunned when he stopped in a Ticonderoga convenience store recently.
“They were selling synthetic marijuana, it was right there behind the counter,” he said. “It was in shock. This is terrible stuff and shouldn’t be sold to anyone.”
Carson, who had a family member go through drug treatment, asked the store owner to please stop selling the substance.
“Drugs are awful,” Carson said. “I’ve see the damage they do. No family should have to go through that.”
Doug Terbeek, executive director of the Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County, was not surprised to to hear Carson’s story. Sale of synthetic marijuana is common in convenience stores and gas stations in the Ticonderoga area, he said.
“It’s around,” Terbeek, whose agency is based in Ticonderoga, said. “It’s legal, although very dangerous, and easy to get. When we talk to store owners we try to emphasize the dangerous and ask them not to sell it.”
Synthetic marijuana is legally available under a number of names — K2, Spice, Kush, Paradise, Demon, Voodoo, Bayou Blaster and others.
The products consist of plant material that has been laced with chemical substances that claim to mimic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive active ingredient in marijuana, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
It’s sold as “herbal incense” and labeled “not for human consumption” to avoid Federal Drug Administration regulatory oversight.
That’s changing, though, according to Terbeek. He said the state legislature is considering a bill to make the substance illegal.
Until legislation is adopted, Terbeek is urging store owners to stop selling synthetic marijuana.
“Store owners are looking to make a profit,” he said. “It may be that they are unaware of the potential dangers. That’s something we’re working on.
“We want to be friendly neighbors,” Terbeek added. “We want to politely ask these folks to stop selling selling it voluntarily.”
The Port Henry Mobil sold the synthetic marijuana before learning of its dangers, Terbeek said.
“They stopped,” he said. “We appreciate their cooperation.”
Terbeek said stores in Ticonderoga and Crown Point are still selling the substance.
More than 11 percent of high school seniors have used the synthetic marijuana in the past year, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Sarah Sandberg, a former student at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, has spoken publicly about her experience with synthetic marijuana. She suffered a seizure and was hospitalized. Sandberg is now part of a group, that includes Terbeek, trying to educate people about the dangers of the substance.
Use of the synthetic marijuana can cause agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart beat, elevated blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations and paranoid behavior, according to Office of National Drug Control Policy.
According to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 2,915 calls were received relating to synthetic marijuana in 2010 and 5,741 calls in 2011. Poison control calls have increased nearly every month.