Synthetic cannabis side effects have been identified as the reason for an outbreak of sicknesses in Colorado. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colorado health officials began investigating the outbreak after hospitals started seeing an increase in emergency room visits by people who had been using the substance in late August.
Real cannabis was legalized last year by the state of Colorado for recreational use. It has been available for medicinal use since 2010. Synthetic cannabis, a combination of dried plants and synthetic cannabinoids, is illegal. Besides Colorado, the federal government and other states have outlawed synthetic cannabis, also known as “spice.” The chemical compound has been around the U.S. since 2009. Laws are difficult to enforce because the compounds keep changing.
Investigators from the joint task force found two new types of synthetic cannabis, ADBICA and ADB-PINACA, the latter of which was linked to a similar outbreak in Georgia in August. State health officials and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation believe the strains almost certainly contributed to the sicknesses.
Hospitals in the Colorado Springs and Denver area reported 221 cases between August and September. As cases began to pile up, Colorado health officials identified 127 to look into further. 10 out of the 127 people were admitted to intensive care units. There were no deaths reported among the cases. Most of the people getting sick from the synthetic cannabis were men around the age of 26.
The side effects described by those who were using “spice” included high blood pressure, agitation, and confusion. Four separate cannabis retailers were shut down as a result of the investigation. Stores can not currently sell cannabis for recreational use. Beginning January 1, 2014, stores will be able to carry cannabis for recreational use. Buyers must be 21 years of age.
Obviously, the state of Colorado will be watching closely to make sure that stores are not selling synthetic cannabis to their customers. The advantage for retailers is a cheaper and faster product versus the time and cost of growing the real thing.