I’m still really perplexed and amazed that there has been a “fake pot” on the market since 2006 and it’s just now getting the attention of the government.
I don’t love business stories and I’m not awesome at cops, but this story I really enjoyed learning about and writing.
I digress, I decided to post the story on the blog. For photos and comments, go to nwfdailynews.com
By ANGEL McCURDY
Northwest Florida Daily News
It’s been just over a month since Woodstock Alternative Sensations opened in a small, standalone building on State Road 85.
The herbal alternative store is the fifth to open in the area, all under the same local ownership. But its motto, “We sell fun,” may be less true in the coming months.
Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced that the store’s best-selling items — chemical-laced herbal blends that mimic the effects of illegal drugs like cocaine and marijuana — will soon be banned. That means customers won’t be able to legally buy L-tab, Party Powder or Euphoria.
General manager Lauren Cramer said she’s not thinking too much past the next month, which she expects will be “deadly” — her term for insanely busy.
“We offer an alternative to the illegal drugs,” Cramer said. “We sell fun. That’s what we’re all about, and until it’s made illegal we’re still going to be here selling it.”
Local law enforcement officials, however, call the products “bad news” and risky, and the federal government agrees.
The DEA is banning five chemicals that are used to produce these “smokable herbal blends,” according to a Nov. 24 press release. In addition to substitutes for marijuana and cocaine, herbal versions of Lortab, methamphetamine and Ecstasy are for sale. The ban cannot go into effect for at least 30 days.
“Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that ‘fake pot’ is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs, but that is not the case,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in the release.
The ban covers the sale and use of those chemicals and the actual products for at least one year to allow authorities to further study the products.
Cramer said that the DEA’s ban is unfounded and that the merchandise sold at Woodstock, gas stations and other herbal alternative stores around the area should remain legal. She explained that what is sold at her store is not meant for human consumption.
She said that some of the products are meant to be burned as incense, rather than smoked directly, and that the bath salts — another common form — are actually meant for the bathtub.
The products hit the same receptors as illegal drugs, she said.
“You just become happy,” she said. “Your anxiety is withered away.”
She added that if customers talk about abusing the products they are banned from the store and that visitors are carded to make sure they are 18 or older.
Sgt. Joey Forgione with the Niceville Police Department said over the past year the numbers of arrests and burglaries that coincide with the alternative herbs has been on the rise.
“They’re using these bath salts as cocaine, crushing them up and snorting them,” Forgione said. “Everybody has their opinions. On the law enforcement side, I see an epidemic.
“The stuff’s bad news, especially since they don’t know what’s in it.”
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that “synthetic marijuana products” have spurred more than 2,000 calls to U.S. poison control centers just in 2010, according to a recent release.
Lt. Michael Card with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said the products arrive without a list of what they are made of and when they are misused, the effects can be deadly.
“These chemicals have not been tested long-term,” Card said. “These people are playing Russian roulette; they don’t know what they’re going to get when they smoke that package.”
He added that although stores argue that it’s meant to be used as incense, its price and packaging suggest otherwise.
“How many other kinds of incense do you buy by the gram and pay $40 for?” he said.
But Cramer blames over regulation, not the product, for its bad rap.
“Anything that makes you happy and euphoric, they take it away,” she said. “That’s just the man.”