PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Pine Bluff Police Department said its officers made a significant dent in the city’s synthetic marijuana problem.
The department announced Wednesday that a raid led officers to nearly 26.6 pounds of synthetic marijuana last week.
“It’s 26.6 pounds that’s not going to end up in the hands of people on the street, using it,” said Officer Richard Wegner, a spokesman for the department. “So, any time we can take it out of the hands of people that this stuff can harm, that’s a positive in itself.”
The drugs were discovered in a storage unit on Thursday, September 7. According to a release from the department, the raid was part of an ongoing investigation into synthetic marijuana. Wegner said it was separated into 742 individual packets, with an estimated street value of $33,390. Some of the packets were labeled “Kush,” while others were to be sold as “WTF.”
“There are many different blends, there are many different chemical compositions of this particular drug, and each one has its own brand name,” Wegner explained.
Synthetic marijuana use has grown in popularity since the drug was introduced to the market roughly 10 years ago. At first, packages were often labeled as incense, but as people overdosed on it, officials quickly learned how strong it can be.
“One blend may treat, or may have the effect on somebody of just mellowing them out with no problem,” Wegner mentioned. “The very next blend could make them very violent and irrational. And that’s part of the reason why it is so deadly to people who take it, because there’s no real way of knowing how it’s going to affect you until it’s too late.”
Synthetic marijuana often elevates the user’s heartbeat to a level associated with intense exercise. In people with heart conditions, that can prove deadly.
“It shares its name with marijuana, but that is where its similarities end,” Wegner stated.
Synthetic marijuana is a chemical that is sprayed onto grass or another plant product so it can be smoked. There are more than 400 varieties, some with names like K2, Kush, Spice, and Skooby Snax. Wegner said synthetic marijuana changed the way officers react to the people they encounter.
“Most people can be talked down when they’re just angry,” he noted. “People who are suffering the effects of this drug, they can’t be talked down. It doesn’t work. They’re not registering what you’re trying to say. I have dealt with people who were under the effects of this drug before who were incapable of speaking. While they fought with us, they actually growled.”
The federal government started to ban synthetic marijuana in 2011, but there are so many different types, drug enforcement officials cannot keep up. And with its harmless-looking packaging and deceptive names, Wegner said it continues to fool people into taking dangerous risks.
“And another primary concern we have is, there may be parents out there who are aware that their children are smoking this, and may think, ‘well, as long as it’s just marijuana,’” he said. “But that’s the problem: it’s not marijuana.”
Wegner said that the police department waited to announce the raid because officers wanted to arrest the suspected distributor first. The release states that they know who they are looking for, but have not found him yet to be able to take him into custody.