With news reports of the recent deaths of a 13-year-old boy in Pennsylvania and a 19-year-old university basketball player in South Carolina linked to the use of synthetic marijuana, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council has banned fake pot from the reservation.
The tribe passed a resolution January 10, declaring the ban on products known as synthetic cannabis and marketed as “herbal incense,” ”herbal smoking blends,” “bath salts,” and “Spice.” “These and products derived from similar formulas known and not yet known shall be banned from the sale and display within the territory’s retail businesses, effective immediately,” the resolution says.
“The Tribal Council is responsible for the health, safety, education and welfare of all members of the tribe. So we’re asking the private business sector here in Akwesasne to help us protect our community members,” Tribal Chief Mark Garrow said in a press release from the chiefs.
Synthetic cannabis is a psychoactive and chemical product that produces a “high” similar to genuine marijuana. Manufacturers claim that synthetic cannabis contains a mixture of traditionally-used medicinal herbs, each of which produces a mild effect. Genuine marijuana is an illegal drug, but fake pot products are legal and they don’t show up as a positive on urine drug tests, according to the website About. These products were introduced into the market in 2002 and their use has grown since them. Some of the ersatz marijuana is marketed as “100 percent organic,” implying they are natural and completely safe. Lab analyses didn’t find evidence of the molecules from the alleged plant ingredients, but did from had large amounts of synthetic chemicals, suggesting that the actual ingredients were not the same as those listed on the packet, the tribal chiefs said. “We have a duty to implement rules and laws to regulate and educate the community to the dangers and possible harmful effects of products,” said Tribal Chief Randy Hart. “This includes products sold throughout the world and within the jurisdictions of the Saint Regis Mohawk Territory.”
Last October, a 13-year-old boy in Pennsylvania who became ill after smoking synthetic marijuana and had a double lung transplant died, the Huffington Post reported. Also in October, Lamar Jack, 19, a basketball player at Anderson University in South Carolina collapsed during practice and died several days later. Toxicology tests revealed synthetic marijuana in his system.
The St. Regis chiefs said it seems likely that synthetic cannabis can precipitate psychosis and, in some cases, it is prolonged. Studies suggest that synthetic cannabis intoxication is associated with acute psychosis and it can worsen previously stable psychotic disorders, the chiefs said. It may also have the ability to trigger a long-term psychotic disorder among vulnerable individuals.
“This ban will be in effect immediately,” Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance said. “The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Compliance Department will be responsible for enforcing the ban.” As of January 10, 2012, the Compliance Department began notifying retailers of the ban so that the product can be taken off the shelves.