The state of Illinois is having a crisis concerning contaminated synthetic marijuana like Spice and K2. Three people have lost their lives and more than 100 people have been hospitalized in the Midwest stretching east to Maryland. People are being admitted to the hospital hemorrhaging, and with bloody noses and gums and with blood in their urine. Lab testing has found rat poison contaminating the purchased synthetic marijuana.
Illnesses have been linked to fake marijuana before but this is the first outbreak involving rat poison contamination, said the CDC’s Renee Funk. Those sickened require hospitalization and treatment with vitamin K to control bleeding, she said.
“This is an unusual outbreak,” Funk said Tuesday, adding that is unclear how the contamination occurred.
“The number of cases continues to go up each day,” Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Tuesday. “Synthetic cannabinoids in general are not safe and this is one example of not knowing what chemicals are in the product. We are telling people don’t use synthetic cannabinoids.”
Synthetic marijuana has been banned multiple times by Illinois but the manufacturers continuously change the labeling on the packages and the makeup of the fake cannabis to get it re-shelved. Demand for marijuana is strong and in states that do not offer the real thing, enthusiasts are lured by the synthetic marijuana that can be purchased in convenience stores and smoke shops.
Drug manufactures like Insys Therapeutics create synthetic marijuana as it is a common practice for the pharmaceutical industry to create synthetic substances skirting federal laws. But unlike products like Spice and K2, drug manufactures are forced to test their synthetic products and ensure they are safe for the public although it could be argued that the regulated measures have failed in terms of the opioid epidemic.