By ROB W. ANDERSON
Concerned parents, students, school officials, community members and a few local and area dignitaries gathered this week to learn about and discuss the dangers of a growing and sometimes fatal epidemic.
The non-profit organization known as Reaching Our Hulbert Community hosted members of the Cherokee County Drug Task Force in a town hall meeting April 4 to ensure people remain aware and concerned of the dangers of synthetic marijuana, or what is being referred to as K2, spice, fake weed, Bombay blue, genie, black mamba and serenity.
ROHC Prevention Specialist Shasta Teague said the gathering at the Hulbert Public Schools Auditorium was needed, because use of fake weed is growing among youth and adults, and many people have incorrect information about the substance.
“This is our second town hall meeting, and this year our board decided on the topic K2/spice because we know it’s a very big problem in the area right now. There’s a big misconception out there that it’s legal pot,” she said. “We wanted to raise awareness and make sure everyone knows the risks and that it can be harmful, or even fatal, the very first time you use it.”
Some of the common symptoms associated with the use of synthetic marijuana include vomiting, sweating and chills, combative behavior, heart palpitations, pale appearance, speech impairment, panic attacks and hallucinations, according to Cherokee County Juvenile Drug Court Director Cindy Farmer.
Because the synthetic substance contains man-made chemicals like HU210 or UR144, which are listed as chemicals deemed toxic and highly-flammable, use of the synthetic marijuana is akin to playing a game of chance with death, she said.
“You really don’t know what you’re getting when you get a package. That HU210 is being found in a lot of these products,” she said. “Just as your DNA is different, the effect on your body is going to be different. It may be OK for you to use it, but your buddy may have a seizure. It’s like playing Russian roulette when you use these products.”
Cherokee County District Attorney Brian Kuester and Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Tommy Mullins joined Farmer at the end of her presentation to answer questions from the audience. Questions surrounded the legalities of using and selling the product and locations where what Kuester called “poison” is sold.
“What angers me is that there are people making money on this stuff hand over fist, knowing full well that this stuff is poison. I’ve struggled over the last six months trying to find the right term for this stuff,” he said. “I’ve done several interviews and in one interview I said ‘stuff.’ I finally came to the conclusion that poison really sums it up.”
Farmer said just because the product is sold over the counter, people shouldn’t view it as a regulated, legal or safe product.
“Just because it’s sold on the market doesn’t mean that it’s OK. We’ve got to raise awareness,” she said. “Talk to your friends. Talk to your kids. If you don’t have that conversation with your child, they will have it with another kid.”