Synthetic Pot Laced With Formaldehyde Raises Concern In Dallas

By Paul Gaita 10/19/17

One official has called for an investigation into city funeral homes, and smoke shops that may be selling the chemically-laced synthetic pot.

synthetic marijuana
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In a coordinated effort to combat the rise of drugs in their city, police and council members in Dallas, Texas have suggested that they have encountered a new adversary in their fight: synthetic marijuana soaked in formaldehyde.

Though no specific instances were presented, Council member Dwaine Caraway expressed his belief that dealers are dipping the synthetic cannabinoid compound known as K2 into formaldehyde, a powerful chemical used in building materials and as a preservative in mortuaries. 

Caraway has called for police investigations into city funeral homes and smoke shops that may be selling the chemically-laced synthetic pot.

Exposure to formaldehyde itself carries a number of health risks; inhaling the vapors produced in building materials or through car emissions, or by absorbing liquids containing formaldehyde (such as embalming fluid) through the skin can cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat, coughing or wheezing, and skin irritation.

Long-term effects can be serious: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Toxicology Program and International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified formaldehyde as a human carcinogen at one time.

For these reasons, absorbing formaldehyde through a synthetic cannabinoid—which itself has been credited with instances of hallucination, seizures and violent behavior—could be a potentially dangerous experience.

"Formaldehyde is not a chemical that you should be inhaling," said funeral director DeWayne Hughes. "It can do a lot of damage to you internally and externally. Somebody who does not have any training, and who is not knowledgeable, should not be messing with formaldehyde."

Dallas police and city officials introduced a two-pronged plan to cut off the distribution of synthetic marijuana in their city. Law enforcement will focus its efforts on dealers who may be selling the chemically-laced drug, while city leaders plan to seek out the source of the chemicals that are being used in its production. The latter may prove difficult, as formaldehyde is legally available for purchase in drug and beauty supply stores, and even in some school science labs.

As noted by ABC News, reports have surfaced about embalming fluid thefts from funeral homes in cities like New York, prompting industry members to advise mortuary operators to keep the chemical in secure storage areas. The use of embalming fluid with naturally occurring marijuana and tobacco cigarettes—a process known as "wet" or "fry"—has been attributed to numerous adverse reactions, ranging from hallucinations to criminal assault.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.