Dickinson tobacco store opts out of synthetic drug salesIn the four months The Old Tobacco Shoppe in downtown Dickinson has been open, it has received numerous requests for K2, Incense, Spice and other synthetic marijuana products.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
In the four months The Old Tobacco Shoppe in downtown Dickinson has been open, it has received numerous requests for K2, Incense, Spice and other synthetic marijuana products.
But smoke shop co-owner Deborah Dench said the store sells tobacco and tobacco accessories — strictly legal fare.
Wanting to appease its customers, the store’s owners looked into the products and spoke to the Stark County state’s attorney only to find out that synthetics were illegal in North Dakota.
“We all decided ‘no,’” Dench said of herself and the five other family co-owners.
The requests became so annoying that her daughter decided to put up signs on the front door and behind the register, which has slowed — but not stopped — the requests, Dench said.
“What I hear goes into it, that is freaking scary,” she said.
Synthetic marijuana targets the same neural receptors in the brain as natural marijuana, said Dr. Andy McLean, psychiatrist and medical director for the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
“It latches onto them a little differently and actually latches on to them more strongly, so you get more of the side effect sorts of problems that you’re hearing about,” he said.
Synthetic marijuana is a “pain in the butt,” said Dickinson Police Department Capt. Dave Wilkie.
“The reason for that is right now, within the laboratory system, I think they have 40 different tests for this synthetic stuff, and there’s probably 400 different kinds of synthetics,” he said. “So we’re not able to test for all of it. It’s been very difficult.”
The way the statute is written, each formula must be outlawed, Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said.
“As soon as they’re learning of these classifications, then they’re being added to the statute as fast as we can,” he said. “The fact of the matter is we need something … that encompasses all of these synthetic controlled substances.”
Synthetics are listed as Schedule 1 drugs in North Dakota, he said.
Because of the way it’s scheduled, it’s a felony to possess the drug, Henning said.
“Those are substances that basically have no recognized medical use or they are so dangerous that they have to be strictly controlled,” he said.
Western North Dakota is seeing an increase in synthetic drug use because they’re new, Wilkie said.
“But it’s not because it’s replacing marijuana, it’s just because it’s now becoming more available,” he said. “We’ll see it level out here if it hasn’t already started to level out.”
Because synthetic marijuana isn’t illegal everywhere, it’s still available online, Wilkie said.
“You don’t have to go find a drug dealer, you can order it right off the Internet,” he said.
Another issue with synthetics are the additives, McLean said. In addition to the synthetic chemical that mimics the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, there are other harmful chemicals.
“They’re dangerous, you know, they just are, they’re dangerous,” Wilkie said. “’Cause you have no control over them; you don’t know where they’re coming from, you don’t know anything about them.”