The news has been sprinkled lately with stories about “Spice”, the chemically infused “incense” that Arizona teens have been smoking instead of marijuana.  Until just a few weeks ago, Spice and other compounds like it were widely and legally available in smoke shops around the state.  Sprayed with chemical cannabinoids which produce a high similar to marijuana, the mixes were manufactured under various names including K2, PEP, Ninja, Spice and Voodoo, and sold in brightly colored packages marked “Not for Human Consumption.”  Warnings aside, plenty of consumers paid $20 to $40 per package for a seemingly “safe” way to get high without the legal side effects of marijuana or other illicit drugs.  The truth, however, is that there is nothing safe about Spice, and in response to a rash of medical emergencies ranging from convulsions, temporary vision loss and psychotic episodes, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency recently banned the chemicals (JWH-018) most commonly used to produce synthetic pot.  In its upcoming session, Arizona lawmakers are likely to introduce their own bills to criminalize synthetic pot, and local school districts including Tempe and Gilbert are already rewriting their zero tolerance policies to include synthetic drugs.  This is all positive, but how can you know your child isn’t already in possession of “legal” pot or other legal psychoactive drugs, or won’t become a victim of the next chemical formulations that emerge under the radar of the new federal ban?

The DEA ordered all retailers selling products laced with JWH-018 to remove them from their shelves and online inventories by December 24, 2010.  Unfortunately, the ban covers only that particular chemical compound and plenty of otherwise chemically synthesized drug substitutes will still be available in stores and over the internet.  Currently, in the absence of a state law, the possession or consumption of Spice and many other analogue drugs is still legal in Arizona, but could be subject to harsh punishment under a zero tolerance policy instituted by a school or other body.  For instance, according to one recent news report in the AZ Daily Sun (December 12, 2010), the Coconino County Probation Department added Spice and other synthetic drugs to a list of prohibited drugs for juvenile offenders after they discovered that almost 50% of offenders tested positive for Spice after testing negative for alcohol or marijuana.  Cities, counties and states across the country are writing new ordinances and laws as quickly as they can.

In the meantime, and to protect children from physical and legal harms, it’s important for parents to familiarize themselves with the names, package types and labeling of these stealth drugs because many of them are designed to pass adult scrutiny.  Furthermore, many compounds, including Spice, cannot be detected by standard, over the counter urine tests, so your child could be using them even while you are attempting to monitor their sobriety.  A specialized and more expensive test for Spice and other synthetic drugs has been developed and is available by contacting Norchem (www.norchemlab.com).  To assist you in your efforts, we’re publishing a list at the end of this article of online drugstores most often frequented by teens. Notice while you’re there that many offer clean, human urine samples that kids can buy to fool your home tests!   The ingenuity is endless, but you can stay one step ahead if you are educated and know what to look for. 

Clearly, the most effective weapon you have in the battle to keep your kids drug free is conversation.  If you and your children can talk openly and truthfully about the risks, both medical and legal, as well as the appeals (peer pressures, low self esteem, stress, emotional turmoil) of drugs, you will be in the best possible position to offer counsel, support or professional help if it is indicated.  When teens know that their parents “get it” and take an active role in protecting and guiding them, they feel safer and more self assured.  So why not arm yourself with some online education and then spice up your next heart to heart with some facts and truths about “fake” drugs?  Your children, in the end, will thank you for it.

Online Drugstores:  www.everyonedoesit.com, www.arenaethnobotanicals.com www.salviacenter.com  

Great General Information on Drugs of All Types: www.erowid.org

Your Family and The Law is written by Claudia Gilburd, founder of Teen Law School™ for the clients and friends of Davis Miles Law Firm.  Teen Law School conducts seminars for teens and parents on the local, state and federal laws that govern the typical activities of teenage life.  For more information about Teen Law School, or to schedule a seminar in your area, please email info@teenlawschool.com.  At Davis Miles, our attorneys are skilled in representing juveniles and adults alike in matters involving drugs, zero tolerance policy violations and other situations that can cause serious challenges to your rights and freedoms.  Drug offenses in Arizona are very serious, and Davis Miles attorneys are expert in providing vigorous defense and information about your rights. For any legal matter involving any member of your family, Davis Miles attorneys are ready to advocate for you.