Spice Banned in California After Overdose Outbreak

By Seth Ferranti 09/28/16

The ban comes a month after more than 50 Skid Row residents were hospitalized for Spice in less than a week.

Spice Banned in California After Overdose Outbreak
Photo via DEA

After an outbreak of Spice poisonings in August on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, where 52 people were hospitalized in less than a week, Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed new legislation outlawing possession of the synthetic cannabinoid. The first offense is only an infraction, but a second or third offense can result in misdemeanors.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued warnings about the Spice poisonings to health care professionals in August, but that hasn’t stopped Skid Row residents in downtown LA from using the synthetic cannabinoid.

“These synthetic drugs are a uniquely dangerous threat to public safety,” Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) said to her colleagues before Senate Bill 139 was voted in unanimously, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The measure was supported by multiple law enforcement groups including the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the California Police Chiefs Association and the Los Angeles Police Protective League. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance opposed the bill. Selling Spice is already illegal.  

“[This law] is very important because young people believe that if a drug is not illegal, it is okay and that it is safe,” Galgiani said. “But underground chemists manufacture these drugs in warehouses and then market them to kids as being legal when in fact they are more dangerous.”

Unlike cannabis, Spice is made by spraying research chemicals onto dried plant matter. It is known for leading to unpredictable behavior and sometimes life-threatening side effects.

“This drug is extremely harmful, and not much is known about what goes into making Spice,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in an alert issued in August. “While no deaths have been reported from this recent outbreak of ‘Spice’ toxicity, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is concerned about further health impacts of this drug in communities across the county. The patients reportedly exhibited symptoms of altered mental status, ataxia, and decreased consciousness, consistent with a sympathomimetic toxidrome.”

Homeless city inhabitants have been preyed upon by dealers who sell Spice joints for $1 under street names like K2, Scooby Snax and Black Magic, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Blue flyers have been passed out on Skid Row reading: “Synthetic marijuana can kill. All batches aren’t the same! The high isn’t worth it.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.