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Family of Latest "Spice" Death Speaks Out

By Amelia Edelman 01/15/14

Despite growing concern about the dangers of death and addiction, synthetic marijuana continues to remain legal and widely available to teens.

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The many varieties of Spice. Photo via

Back in September, CNN reported on three deaths that were linked to use of synthetic marijuana, otherwise known as Spice. Just two months later, Alaska teen Kurtis Hildreth was found dead in his bedroom alongside his pipe, lighter, and packages of the drug - a legal but often more dangerous alternative to marijuana. This week, Hildreth’s family spoke out against the drug, which according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse is known by various aliases including K2, Yucatan Fire, Moon Rocks, Fake Weed, and Skunk.

“They market this crap to 12-year-olds,” Hildreth’s aunt, Kerri Stevens, explained to the Alaska Dispatch. “It has Scooby Doo on the front of it, smiley faces, SpongeBob…it’s horrible.” Although the Alaska Medical Examiner’s office was unable to determine the cause of Hildreth’s death, both his aunt and mother are convinced it was an outcome of his Spice consumption. “They tested him for over 300 known substances,” Stevens adds, “and said he had none of them…even though the pipe was there. Is there not a reason the pipe can’t be tested? They can’t test what was in those packages?”

The packages contained Spice, an ever-changing Chinese-made chemical recipe. Its many varieties and ingredients remain a mystery, but we do know the concoction is combined with dried plant material, labeled “not for human consumption,” and sold legally as incense. The simultaneous appeal and danger of the drug is the common knowledge that it produces a marijuana-like high when smoked.

Legal measures taken against Spice manufacture and sales have proven to be a game of whack-a-mole; when one ingredient is banned, the drug makers simply replace it with another. Because of this, Alaska records show no official deaths caused by Spice.

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Amelia Edelman is a senior-level editor, journalist, and poet from New York City, currently living in Nashville but usually found on the road / in the air / around the globe. She writes about travel, home, design, health and wellness, work, literature, politics, and sometimes ghosts. Find Amelia on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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