JACKSON, Miss. – It’s the drug sweeping Mississippi, spice is just one of the names for it. You may have also heard it called Kush, K-2 or Scooby Snaxs.
Spice has left hundreds hospitalized, eight dead, and more in jail for selling it in the Magnolia state.
“How they make this is they start with a chemical,” said. Sam Owens, Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. “It’s a powder and they mix that with acetone.”
Spice is actually a synthetic cannabinoid, a designer drug, at one point just a couple years ago, it was legal in Mississippi.
“Let’s say Matt buys five different packages that all look the same and are the same prices,we would then take it and open it and take it to our lab and they would test it to see what chemicals are in it,” said Rusty Payne, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Agency.
“You can put anything you want on the label,” Payne said. “You really don’t know what you’re getting.”
“This is a dangerous unpredictable drug and people just do not need to use it,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs of the State Department of Health.
“These sort of behaviors are things that are not dissimilar to reports we’ve gotten,” Dobbs said. “People rolling around in the yard. Taking their clothes off. Running around outside crazy.”
Jim Pollard of AMR said since the beginning of April, they have received 15 to 20 calls per day related to spice.
“If the patient is extremely agitated or quite violent then we may gave a sedative medication and if necessary well provide a safe restraint for the patient,” he said.
At last check, there were 511 cases of spice related emergency room visits across the state.
“I think they’re trying to get a more intense high than smoking marijuana, Owens said.
It’s also easy to get. Until 2010, you could buy it at convenience stores, some stores are still being busted for selling it. A convenience store on Northside Drive at Bailey Avenue was raided this month for having the synthetic drug.
But if you can’t find it in a store, you can order it online. Owens says most spice is shipped from China and India. It’s packaged to appear legal and often says it’s herbal or natural.
According to the DEA, spice is a multi-million dollar industry in the U.S. and it’s bringing in big bucks in Mississippi. The biggest spice drug raid so far in the state happened in Jackson in April. Nearly $8 million dollars worth of spice was seized.
“If we continue in the trend that were on now we will have more purchases and seizures of spice this year than we’ve had the two previous years combined,” Owens said.
So far this year there have been 32 spice busts. Trafficking spice can lead to up to 30 years in prison. Possession could carry one to 12 years.