Feds probe likely synthetic pot outbreak in Colo. - New York News

Feds probe likely synthetic pot outbreak in Colo.

Posted: Updated:

By BEN NEARY

DENVER (AP) — A federal team has arrived in Colorado to help investigate hospital reports that synthetic marijuana is to blame for scores of recent illnesses and possibly three fatalities in Denver and Colorado Springs.

"The deaths are suspect, they're being investigated," Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said Tuesday.

The five-member federal team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes experts trained in epidemiology and toxicology.

Salley said they will join investigators from the state and Tri-County Health Department trying to determine the source of synthetic pot — also known as "spice" — that apparently has sickened an estimated 75 people since late August.

The effort may take weeks, Salley said. He urged people not to ingest synthetic pot.

The illnesses are occurring in a state that, along with Washington, has voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The U.S. Justice Department has said it will not challenge states that want to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana as long as there are controls to keep it away from kids, the black market and federal property.

Colorado's outbreak also follows a case in North Carolina, where the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration charged 30 people in July with conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana and other drugs.

"The rise of synthetic drug use in the United States alone has reached epidemic proportions and has resulted in a sustained rise in emergency room visits, deaths, and violence among teens and young adults," Harry S. Sommers, special agent in charge of the Atlanta field division of the CDC, said in July.

Wyoming last year saw a number of illnesses associated with synthetic marijuana. That outbreak sparked a CDC probe that found 16 people in six states had suffered kidney damage from the drug.

Wyoming authorities said more than a dozen people were sickened in the Casper area and several were hospitalized with kidney failure following exposure to synthetic marijuana.

Two women were recently sentenced to federal prison in Wyoming for distributing the drug and causing serious injury.

Dr. Tracy Murphy, Wyoming state epidemiologist, said Tuesday that the cases came to light last year after an unusual number of patients went to hospitals with kidney failure, back pain, abdominal pain and vomiting.

Murphy said substances sold as synthetic marijuana are unpredictable in terms of ingredients and physical reactions.

"There's probably lots of illnesses and harmful effects that we probably just don't know about yet," he said. "The best thing is that people just need to not put that stuff in their bodies."

Wyoming and other states, as well as the federal government, have attempted to outlaw synthetic marijuana. However, lawmakers face a moving target because the chemical nature of the substance can evolve.

Murphy said manufacturers may try to make new products based on what is or isn't outlawed.

A CDC report says synthetic marijuana appeared in the United States in 2009. It is generally comprised of a drug solution applied to plant material and is distributed globally "under countless trade names and packaged in colorful wrappers designed to appeal to teens, young adults and first-time drug users," the report states.

"Products are often packaged with disingenuous labels such as 'not for human consumption,' or 'incense,' but health professionals and legal authorities are keenly aware that these products are smoked like marijuana," the report says.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Lawsuit settlements reached in Metro-North crash

    Lawsuit settlements reached in Metro-North crash

    Monday, September 15 2014 8:39 PM EDT2014-09-16 00:39:39 GMT
    Four of 28 people who sued the Metro-North Railroad in federal court after being injured in a Bridgeport train crash last year have settled with the commuter railroad.
    Four of 28 people who sued the Metro-North Railroad in federal court after being injured in a train crash in Connecticut last year have settled with the commuter railroad.
  • A history classroom in the real world

    A history classroom in the real world

    Monday, September 15 2014 7:09 PM EDT2014-09-15 23:09:49 GMT
    When Denis Belliveau is teaching kids about Marco Polo, he is in his element. He makes the explorer's journey come alive by taking students on a No. 7 train ride through Queens, New York's most diverse borough. He brings history alive for his students. Along the way the students stop in neighborhoods that mirror Polo's trip. I caught up with the class in Flushing, Queens, which easily resembles China.
    When Denis Belliveau is teaching kids about Marco Polo, he is in his element. He makes the explorer's journey come alive by taking students on a No. 7 train ride through Queens, New York's most diverse borough. He brings history alive for his students. Along the way the students stop in neighborhoods that mirror Polo's trip. I caught up with the class in Flushing, Queens, which easily resembles China.
  • Etan Patz murder confession played in court

    Etan Patz murder confession played in court

    Monday, September 15 2014 6:43 PM EDT2014-09-15 22:43:37 GMT
    A judge allowed a confession tape to be played in court in connection with the case of Etan Patz, who vanished in 1979. On the tape, Pedro Hernandez described how he killed Patz. But his lawyers say Hernandez falsely confessed and doesn't understand his rights. Before Hernandez's videotaped confession was played, Patz's mother quickly left the courtroom unable to watch the video.
    A judge allowed a confession tape to be played in court in connection with the case of Etan Patz, who vanished in 1979. On the tape, Pedro Hernandez described how he killed Patz. But his lawyers say Hernandez falsely confessed and doesn't understand his rights. Before Hernandez's videotaped confession was played, Patz's mother quickly left the courtroom unable to watch the video.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices