In an amusing and un-self-aware undercover investigation out today, ABC News dives into the seedy and lucrative world of synthetic marijuana sales. The breathless, two-part investigation features Brian Ross and his crack news team strapping on hidden cameras and uncovering a world where underage kids can obtain "legal marijuana products" like K2 and Spice, which "mimic the effects of THC in marijuana, but users say they are much stronger than the real thing."
It makes for incredible television as an unspecified ABC News employee makes his 14-year-old daughter Sarah wear a hidden camera and purchase $85 worth of Spice at a head shop in New York City. They "never once asked for an ID." Then in Los Angeles, they get 16-year-old Dakota to wander into an 18-and-up head shop where he also buys Spice. "It was the same story across the country," intones Brian Ross.
In phase two of the investigation, Ross & Co. go to China where pharmaceutical companies outside of Shanghai supply a thriving U.S. market. An ABC News producer goes undercover to meet representatives of a factory willing to sell her $5,800 per kilo. "It will arrive in airmail in 4-7 days," says the producer. They then hunt down the "huge distribution network" in the U.S., landing at the doorstep of a an unsuspecting dealer named Chris Van Winkle in Bloomington Illinois, who denies his own identity only to have nearby residents rat him out. "Neighbors told us, that was indeed Van Winkle," says Ross.
Strangely missing from the international investigation is any indication of the downsides of K2 or Spice. It's merely cited as "dangerous" for kids. We did a little back checking and it appears that the jury is still out, though there are some troubling effects. The latest pockmark against Spice, which is sold legally only as incense, is a report from the American Psychiatric Association this month saying Spice can cause a "lengthy bout of psychosis in some users." Participants in the study recovered rather quickly but it sounded like a real trip:
Symptoms in the 10 patients, who were ages 21 to 25, included auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions and thoughts of suicide. Most of the patients recovered from the psychosis in five to eight days but symptoms lasted as long as three months in some people.