Video: Mall-Bought Marijuana Causes Teen's Twisted Death

By Dirk Hanson 07/15/11

After inhaling a mall-bought batch of  “Iaroma"—a synthetic pot substitute sold as 'incense'—a 19-year-old Chicago boy dies after taking a 100 mph joyride into a neighbor's house.

Like many other mothers in her situation, Chicago housewife Karen Dobner has spent the past few days trying to understand how an innocuous package of potpourri purchased at a local mall managed to kill her teenage son. According to the Chicago Sun-Times: “Just hours before 19-year-old Max Dobner was seen driving up to 100 mph down Mooseheart Road before crashing into a neighboring house, he’d told his older brother he and a friend had bought Iaroma at a tobacco shop at an Aurora mall.” Max died immediately after the crash, but the substance that fueled his wild rampage appears to have been fully legal. Appearing on NBC'sToday Show yesterday, the tearful mother said that her older son told her Max had called him before the accident to say that he had been inhaling Iaroma, which he had purchased from a tobacco shop at a local mall. As The Fix has covered extensively,  Iaroma, which  sold freely as incense or potpourri, is just the latest  form of synthetic marijuana that has cropped up in convenience stores and head shops to fill the void left when the U.S. government outlawed several chemicals used in the first batch of fake cannabis earlier this year. Like the Evangelist Christian Koreans who regularly knock off designer duds for Forever 21, the mostly Korean manufacturers of faux marijuana have proven adept at staying one step ahead of the law.

No doubt, with all the publicity surrounding Dobner's death, Iaroma will soon go the way of its deadly predecessors. But while the herb currently remains legal, its after-effects aren't pretty. An Iaroma user who just tried the drug describes his experience this way: “Yesterday, just for shits and giggles, I decided to try some Iaroma, which I thought was basically legal weed. An hour later, I was experiencing cold sweats, chest pains, low blood pressure, and heart rate of about 100bpm. I think I narrowly avoided a heart attack. Stay away from this shit. Seriously.” We suggest you stop purchasing incense at the mall.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]