I am not a doctor.
I do not have a degree in medicine.
Fuck, I've never even played a doctor on TV.
Yet nonetheless, I feel the need to give my amateur opinion on this story coming out of Pittsburgh.
From The Digital Journal: Teen dies after smoking fake marijuana
First off, how great of a pro-marijuana marketing piece is that headline? Thousands of years of human use and not a single death for the real deal. K2 is on the market for a period of a few years, and it's already being blamed in the death of a teenager.
A 13 year old boy is dead in Pennsylvania after all attempts to save the boy from two collapsed lungs, and the subsequent infection, sadly failed. As the article says, young Brandon Rice was taken to the hospital after smoking the legal marijuana substitute and complaining of "numbness in his hands and feet, [being] unable to breathe, and...vomiting blood". Medical imaging revealed extensive chemical burns on the inside of the boys lungs.
Brandon's parents searched their son's room, finding a stash of "Spice", or "K2", an increasingly popular synthetic blend designed to mimic the effects of marijuana without any of those pesky side effects, like failing a drug test. Along with his potpourri head stash, the Rice's also found a plastic candy PEZ-dispenser, which their son had modified into a smoking device. Ahh, brings me back to my formative years, when I made a pipe out of a metal kazoo. Unfortunately, you had to remove the piece of paper that made the kazoo "zoo", so you couldn't play and smoke at the same time...but that is a tale for another day.
Brandon Rice died in his sleep this morning, after being hooked to a respirator since June. But as Brandon was idly wasting away in a sterile hospital bed, the political machine has been busy. Very busy indeed, my loves.
Brandon's case was co-opted and used as an example to speed up the process of banning and criminalizing the growing number of products that are being labeled as "fake drugs". Pennsylvania became the 21st state to outlaw the possession and distribution of a litany of these products, including K2, bath salts, and salvia. Under the new law, first time offenders found guilty of possession will face punishments up to $5,000 in fines, and up to a year in prison.
OK. So there's the story as the media gives it. And I have two major problems with it.
First off is the part of the article regarding the criminalization of these "fake drugs". See if you can find the trouble areas.
The tragedy that claimed Brandon's life came months before Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law that outlawed the sale of 'fake drugs' like K2, Spice, Vanilla Sky, Salvia and bath salts that produce a marijuana-like high after being ingested. Pennsylvania became the 21st state to ban the sale of synthetic drugs, which are known to cause agitation, paranoia and hallucinations, according to the National Institutes of Health.
I have a serious fucking problem with marijuana being in the same sentence as bath salts. The same is true to a lesser degree for Salvia, and I've never heard of "Vanilla Sky", but from all the horror stories I've read about bath salts, whoever crafted this sentence needs to be shackled in the stocks. Comparing a drug that has been as beneficial and utterly harmless as marijuana to a synthetic speed that has resulted in the sexual abuse of livestock is dishonest, and down right criminal. And to anyone who has actually smoked Salvia, honestly comparing it to the effects of marijuana is simply laughable. Part of me thought we were past this Reefer Madness style propaganda.
My second gripe is the choice to use a quote from the boy's father regarding his cause for death, rather than reaching out to the medical professionals who were responsible for his recovery. The article does a wonderful job of glossing over the fact that this kid was smoking out of a fucking PEZ-dispenser. Never mind the fact that we know for sure that heated plastics release the kind of vaporous chemicals known to cause the kind of damage that Brandon Rice's lungs suffered. Never mind the fact that there are no other reported cases of Spice causing this level of physical damage. Or the fact that Brandon's death was caused by his body succumbing to an infection that took root after the surgical attempt to fix his collapsed lungs, which his body was unable to fight off in its weakened state. The obvious problem here is the boy was smoking fake-weed!
Now, I am not saying these substances should be available to children. But I believe a very big piece of this puzzle is that the boy was able to legally acquire his K2, while subsequently being denied the proper tools to ingest the drug due to it being illegal to sell a proper smoking device to a minor. It seems to me the real tragedy here is that this boy somehow reached the age of 13 without anyone informing him that if he put flame to plastic and took a deep breath, he was gonna have a bad time.
Again, I am not supporting the sale of these substances to minors. And I am not a medical professional, in any way qualified to make my statement that I think the PEZ-dispenser is more to blame here than the K2 the kid was smoking. But this propaganda piece subliminally aimed to take a cheap shot against marijuana is simply piss-poor journalism. Comparing marijuana to any of the newly banned drugs in Pennsylvania is fundamentally flawed on one single point. These new bans are entirely focused on synthetics. Chemically derived substances aimed at mimicking the effect of a natural drug (except in the case of bath salts - which simply needs to be burned and removed from the human record). Is the answer here really to saddle our already inefficient system with more laws designed to entrap citizens with hefty fines and jail sentences? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to simply remove the sanctions against the much safer drug that these chemicals are trying to imitate? Seems to me that such a move would completely undo the demand for these allegedly dangerous products. And why do I not hear more of a clamor that the people at PEZ start placing warnings on their packaging that their product is not designed to be a smoking implement?
Didn't you ever wonder why getting high is a crime in the first place??