Synthetic drugs present new problems for probation

Oakland Park resident Jimmy Hewett thought he could smoke Spice even though he was on probation and subject to random drug testing.

He thought wrong.

Hewett is one of the first in Broward County to get in trouble with the court for smoking Spice, a synthetic marijuana – but many people on probation are smoking fake weed and not getting caught.

ad him tested for synthetic marijuana on May 23, two days after he was quoted in the Sun Sentinel saying he smoked 3 grams of Spice a day.

A judge issued a warrant for his arrest on June 12 after a lab in Richmond, Va., confirmed that Hewett had tested positive for Spice.

On Tuesday, Hewett will answer to the court for violating probation.

Because synthetic marijuana is openly sold at gas stations and convenience stores, Hewett says he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.

That’s the argument his attorney, Andrew Smallman, intends to make.

“For people on probation, in their minds this stuff would be ideal for them to use as a substitute for illegal drugs,” Smallman said. “They can buy it at the store and it’s out in the open. It’s just like buying a cigar or a cigarette.”

Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said he hasn’t yet seen anyone in Broward charged with possession of Spice. “But I’m sure they’re coming.”

Finkelstein said he would be watching what happens in the Hewett case.

“If I go to 7-Eleven to buy Spice and it’s openly sold and it’s not marketed as mind-altering, why is it I have violated my probation?” Finkelstein said. “The courts are trying to adapt to changes to chemical compounds that are being sold. You have to be specific. You can’t just say you can’t use mind-altering drugs.”

Hewett was arrested in late 2010 for having Temazepam pills in his pocket without proof of a prescription – a third-degree felony with a maximum five-year sentence. The judge gave him a break in December and placed him on probation for two years.

If Hewett is found guilty of violating probation, the court could sentence him to five years in prison, according to his attorney.

Smallman said he hopes to get the warrant dismissed.

“You have to violate probation willfully and substantially,” Smallman said. “I have a hard time seeing how it was willful or substantial if you can buy it from the behind the counter at 7-Eleven.”

Smallman also wants proof that the chemicals found in Hewett’s drug test were on the list of banned compounds.

As soon as federal and state officials outlaw specific compounds used to make synthetic marijuana, new ones show up in stores, tweaked by chemists trying to stay one step ahead of the law.

Even with sophisticated testing, toxicologists are having a tough time detecting those new compounds.

What’s more, the tests are expensive – $200 to $300 – and the state can’t afford to test everyone on probation or parole, experts say.

“Probation officers aren’t going to [routinely] test for this,” said Dr. Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida.

That’s what Spice users are counting on.

Still, with cities in South Florida lining up to ban synthetic marijuana and bath salts, tests are being conducted among high-risk users, said Jim Hall, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

“When someone is admitted to probation they are instructed on the court orders,” said Jo Ellyn Rackleff, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections. “One of the standard court orders is that they abide by all laws. And both bath salts and synthetic marijuana are illegal. People on probation know they are not supposed to use mind-altering substances.”

Hewett says he has learned his lesson.

“The older stuff was more like marijuana,” he said. “The newer stuff makes me sick. I can’t take this stuff anymore because I’m on probation.”

Smoking Spice

For all those adherents to the “ignorance is bliss doctrine,” synthetic marijuana, commonly and hereafter referred to as spice, is now illegal in Georgia and many other states.

In May 2012, Governor Nathan Deal signed SB 370, which classifies synthetic marijuana (JWH-018) as a Schedule I drug — up there with heroin, GHB and natural marijuana.

While once a viable alternative to smoking the green, odorous plant, spice has now become a pointless alternative.

Yet people continue to smoke it.

Spice is a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that yields the high. The compound is usually sprayed onto a burnable substance and then marketed in pouches as incense (c’mon manufacturers, who are you really fooling?).

The only “edge” spice held over marijuana were that it was techinically a legal substance — and that it didn’t show up on as many drug tests.

But that didn’t mean it was safe.

Users have reported feelings of nausea, paranoia and dizziness arising as a result of using the drug. From there you know the high isn’t as “good” as the one that marijuana yields.

The fact that people continue to smoke the substance is baffling. Governor Nathan Deal signed SB into effect after reports surfaced of deaths and psychosis resulting from using the drug.

Both of those are occurrences that one should never want to risk.

The only other “advantage” spice held over marijuana is that it didn’t show up on basic drug tests. There are two lines of pragmatic logic that stem from this fact. First, if chemists can dream up the drug, it’s highly probable that other chemists can dream up drug tests to detect that drug. And second, if spice usage is becoming such an epidemic even after the drug was illegalized, it’s exceedingly likely that said drug tests will become widespread amongst doctors, employers, etc.

Your decisions are your own, and we as an editorial board can only provide the information necessary to make sure you make choices with all of the facts readily accessible.

So if you are going to smoke an illicit substance, why would you smoke one that yields graver health effects and even possible death?

Before the legal and medical studies came to light, spice was a craftier alternative to getting high on marijuana.

But now, it’s just a imbecilic drug to imbibe in.

Tests to Catch the Makers of Dangerous ‘Legal High’ Designer Drugs

 Urgently needed tests which could help identify the manufacturers of designer ‘legal high’ drugs are being developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. The drugs, known by names such as ‘ivory wave’ and NRG-1” and sold labelled as bath salts, plant food and incense, mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy. Although these so-called ‘designer drugs‘ can be dangerous, many have not yet been made illegal and are difficult to detect with current drug tests.

A means of potentially tracing the source of the raw materials, and consequently providing information as to who is making the ‘bath salts,’ is being developed by scientists at Strathclyde and The James Hutton Institute.

The bath salts drug can cause euphoria, paranoia, anxiety and hallucinations. It often contains mephedrone, a synthetic compound structurally related to methcathinone, which is found in Khat — a plant which, like mephedrone itself, is illegal in many countries.

The bath salts drug is labelled as being not for human consumption and is not illegal in the UK but its import has been banned. The term ‘bath salts’ is used by those who sell the drug as a way of circumventing legislation when supplying it.

The researchers developing tests for the drug are using a technique known as isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) to reveal the course of a drug’s manufacture.

The research is being carried out by Dr Oliver Sutcliffe, at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, and Professor Niamh Nic Daeid and Dr Katy Savage at the Centre for Forensic Science in the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, in collaboration with Dr Wolfram Meier-Augenstein at The James Hutton Institute.

Dr Sutcliffe said: “The legal status of designer drugs varies around the world but they present many dangers to users and these are borne out by the Home Office’s decision to ban the import of ‘bath salts.’

“The new method we have used has enabled us to work backwards and trace the substances back to their starting materials. IRMS measures the relative amounts of an element’s different forms- it is successful because these relative amounts are transferred like a fingerprint through the synthesis of the drug.”

In previous research, the Strathclyde team developed the first pure reference standard for mephedrone, as well as the first reliable liquid chromatography test for the substance, which could be run in a typical law enforcement lab.

The team has also developed a comprehensive screening method for 16 known legal high drug variants using conventional gas chromatographic analysis and are developing a semi- quantitative colourimetric test kit for legal highs which can be used by law enforcement at point of seizure, facilitating a more rapid response to these materials.

The project was presented at the recent 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which was held in Denver.

Drug Testing For K2 Herbal Spice Incense

With all of the positive and negative reviews regarding K2 and other herbal smoke blends, we can come to the conclusion that these products are not Cannabis, they don’t contain THC. With that being said, you would believe that after you smoke these herbs, your drug test should come back clean. It is true that these K2 products are legal and do not contain any of the pending controlled substances. Another fact to keep in mind is that these synthetic cannabinoids that were used in production are not in the same family as THC.

I am a regular K2 and Space Cadet herbal incense smoker and I recently had to take a professional drug screening for a job interview. The weird thing about taking this test was that my drug test results were inconclusive. This means that there were traces of THC in my system but not enough to set off a positive reaction in the drug screening. Inaccurate drug screening tests or home drug tests may take this inconclusive data and take this as a positive result for THC. You also have to remember that every human body is different so your personal results will vary.

I say that this test was inconclusive because the test results were not definite. The test that I took had a faint (barely noticeable) in the THC section. Most standard drug screening tests search for other drugs such as Cocaine, PCP and many other controlled substances. To be honest, my test results could have been read as positive depending on how you read the results. With inconclusive results such as mine, the drug screening test would probably lead to a full blown blood test for more definite conclusions.

If you already use these herbal incense products or are on the fence about using this herbal blends as alternatives to marijuana, make sure you don’t have any drug test scheduled. The truth is that none of us truly know what compounds are being used in these smoking blends. These herbal incense blends are not intended to be smoked only inhaled so you are already taking a risk by doing so. On another note, if you have a scheduled drug screening test for employment or are currently on probation, it may be a good idea to avoid these products altogether.