The availability and possible dangers of synthetic drugs have hit home in the south metro area. On the heels of a federal crackdown and the …
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The availability and possible dangers of synthetic drugs have
hit home in the south metro area.
On the heels of a federal crackdown and the introduction of a
bill in the state Legislature, Littleton officials are joining the
effort to stop sales of the products.
Any business within the city caught selling synthetic marijuana,
often known as Spice or K2, will risk losing its sales tax
Typically advertised as herbal incense, these products have been
widely available on the Internet and in convenience stores and
smoke shops across the nation. On March 1, the Drug Enforcement
Administration added five “synthetic cannabinoids” to its list of
These chemicals — which the DEA says are typically found laced
on plant material — reportedly produce a high similar to marijuana
when smoked. But they also come with potentially harmful side
effects that have landed people in the emergency room.
A week after the DEA’s decision, Littleton’s city council voted
to start immediate enforcement.
Douglas County officials have not indicated any plans to address
While local police officers have no jurisdiction to arrest
violators, Littleton officials determined there was another
approach that could prove effective.
“No business in Littleton is allowed to sell anything contrary
to state or federal law,” City Attorney Suzanne Staiert said.
Establishments caught doing so will, in the words of Mayor Doug
Clark, “cease to exist.”
Three stores in Littleton were given notice to stop sales and
others will be as they are discovered, officials said.
What’s the harm?
The packaging of fake pot often says, “Not for human
By many accounts, that’s no more than an inside joke between
manufacturer and consumer. But the consequences can be serious,
The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, based in Denver,
received 44 calls related to synthetic marijuana last year. So far
in 2011, they have been made aware of eight cases.
Mary Hilko, health educator for the poison control center,
related that data at the Littleton city council’s March 8 special
“But the calls don’t indicate the extent of the problem,” she
said. “It’s definitely a threat to public health.”
City Councilmember Debbie Brinkman said Littleton is a hub for
sales and consumption of synthetic marijuana. Research done by the
police department would seem to offer some support for that
A student at Goddard Middle School was found in possession of
K2, according to a memo sent to the city attorney from a Littleton
police sergeant. The same document said a suicidal woman in
Littleton ingested K2 and was transported to the hospital for
medical and mental health evaluations.
Sgt. Cindy Mitchell’s research has found numerous signs and
symptoms associated with use of the products. They include an
elevated heart rate, vomiting, hallucinations, aggression and
“It’s certainly not something anybody would want to find in
their kid’s backpack,” Brinkman said.
The feds say manufacturers may indeed be targeting youths.
An excerpt found on the DEA’s section of the Department of
“Research articles propose that the packaging is professional
and conspicuous, targeting young people, possibly eager to use
cannabis, but who are afraid of the judicial consequences and/or
association with illicit drugs.”
As such, Littleton’s school district is taking a strong stand
against the products.
Lucinda Hundley, an assistant superintendent for Littleton
Public Schools, said the district is treating products like Spice
the same as any other drug. For example, a student caught with the
substance a second time will be expelled, she said.
The DEA’s emergency order temporarily places the chemicals used
in synthetic pot into Schedule I — alongside heroin, LSD and real
marijuana — of the Controlled Substances Act. Over the next 12
months, federal officials will decide whether that ban should
Several states have already banned synthetic marijuana and
several others are working on legislation to do so.
Lawmakers in Colorado are hoping to get a bill passed that would
ban the substances starting July 1.
Senate Bill 134 would add synthetic cannabinoids to the
statutory list of illegal drugs. Offenses related to the substances
could result in felony charges.
The bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, of
Jefferson County, is likely to be up for a vote soon in the Senate
State Sen. Linda Newell, of Littleton, is a member of the
committee, which recently heard testimony from law enforcement in
support of the bill. She has expressed a strong desire to ban the
“I feel we need to shut this down before any more children are
The next problem
A newer product known as “bath salt” has been labeled a drug of
concern by the DEA, but has not yet been outlawed, said Staiert,
Littleton’s city attorney. It, she wrote in a memo to city council,
is a white powder that is snorted or ingested, producing a
stimulant effect similar to cocaine — but also is a
Hilko, of poison control, called the synthetic drug a more
serious concern than fake marijuana. She said the center has
received three bath salt calls this year, after getting none in
“That’s one nasty chemical,” she said.
But because it is not against federal or state law, there is no
immediate way to stop sales.
Littleton’s city council has decided to have an ordinance
drafted that, if passed, would ban synthetic drugs like bath salt
as they hit the market.
“We want to see what we can do to stay ahead of the curve on
this,” Councilmember Bruce Stahlman said.
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