Jan 26, 2014 11:29 PM by Tony Spehar
Though the number of patients hospitalized because of synthetic pot has dropped drastically, law enforcement and health officials are still keeping track of the dangerous drug.
On Saturday Fountain Police arrested Kong Hoon Kim, owner of the Kwik Way Store on the 900-block of Lake Avenue, for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana. Officers said they found 96-grams of the drug, also known as "spice," in Kim's business.
It was only three-months ago that the Drug Enforcement Administration broke-up the largest synthetic marijuana distribution operation in state history in Colorado Springs. They arrested multiple people and seized enough material to make 45,000 doses of spice.
Late last Summer and early in the Fall there was an outbreak of people getting dangerously ill as a result of using spice. Across Colorado well over 200-people were hospitalized.
"Overall what we saw August through October was over 91 cases, with the majority of those occurring during the month of September," described Bill Mayfield, Emergency Services Liaison and a Hazmat Specialist at Memorial Hospital.
Thankfully, Mayfield said the surge in hospitalizations has dropped dramatically. In the past two-months he said Memorial has only had a handful of cases. But the work of doctors and health officials isn't over, data from hospitals across Colorado who saw spice patients has been gathered to help prevent outbreaks elsewhere in the country.
"To basically take it off the street, especially this one or two specific chemical analogues that were being sprayed on these herbs that was causing such severe symptoms," he explained.
Last week the New England Journal of Medicine published a letter from a group of doctors in Colorado. Using data gathered from affected hospitals, including Memorial, they detailed the rash of spice related illness that struck the state by describing what symptoms were seen and what specific chemicals were causing issues.
"It is a public health problem, local all the way to national level," Bill Mayfield said.
Mayfield explained that using spice just once can cause severe health problems, from bleeding in the brain to death. In 2011 Nicholas Colbert, 19, died after smoking synthetic marijuana in Colorado Springs. In November, his mother Stephane told News 5 that she is still battling in court with the store that allegedly sold him the drug.
"This should not have happened and it shouldn't happen to anybody else," said Colbert.
Colorado lawmakers are set to take on the issue of synthetic marijuana. Representative Lois Landgraf (R - Fountain) has proposed a bill that would make selling any synthetic cannabinoid illegal and give police more time and resources to conduct tests on suspected spice.