Authorities throughout Florida’s correctional facilities are seeing a spike in the number of inmate deaths associated with synthetic marijuana.
But before we get to the story, what exactly is synthetic marijuana?
As The Fresh Toast has previously reported, synthetic marijuana is not marijuana. And it’s not just one substance, either.
In essence, it is a concoction of man-made chemicals that are sprayed onto ground plant matter, that has a vague appearance of marijuana. These man-made chemicals act similar to THC in that they interact with the cell receptors in your brain.
The problem is that each product varies widely and the consumer has no idea which chemicals are present. The chemicals are toxic. And once one of the chemicals is identified and banned, a similar, nearly identical chemical is created. It becomes a never-ending battle of law enforcement vs. chemists.
When an inmate overdoses on synthetic marijuana, they either have a seizure, a heart attack or become unconscious. And it’s a scenario that’s playing out more and more in Bay County, Florida, where correctional officers, inmates and visitors are managing to smuggle in huge amounts of this fake weed that’s been doused with chemicals — some poisonous.
The Fresh Toast: Myth Busters: Everything You Need To Know About Synthetic Marijuana
Synthetic marijuana, also known as “K2” or “Spice” (which both have the same effect, but are a different combination of chemicals) is chemically similar to THC and other natural cannabinoids. But what many people think they’re smoking, they’re not.
“We’ve looked into the roach spray,” Whit Majors, director of the 14th Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner’s Office, told CorrectionsOne. “The pest control companies provided the name of the chemical, and our labs don’t have a way to test for it.”
In the 14th Judicial Circuit, the MEO (Medical Examiner’s Office) has confirmed four inmate deaths related directly to K2 in the past year. About 18 more suspected K2-related deaths are pending death investigations over that same period of time, bogged down in the toxicology testing phase. The suspicion is based on surveillance and the death not being attributed to stabbing, hanging or beating.
Majors said the main difficulty in determining whether K2 played a direct role in an inmate’s death is because of all the chemicals — such as roach spray, bath salts and even seizure medication — added to the synthetic marijuana. While most K2 is doused with chemicals before entering the prisons, Majors said, inmates sometimes will wait for pest control companies to spray the building so they can soak up the insecticides off the floor.
Last year around this time, the Medical Examiner spent around three months determining a cause of death. Now, according to Majors, there are inmate deaths that are backlogged a year out.
Synthetic marijuana is the go-to for inmates, because it’s hard to detect and it’s relatively cheap. According to DOC press secretary Patrick Manderfield, “Recipes are readily available online, and the Department has intercepted homemade versions of it made with household chemicals through inmate mail.”