The Lubbock City Council will discuss the sale and use of legal synthetic marijuana in Lubbock at its meeting 6:15 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.
The Council will discuss a resolution directing the City of Lubbock Board of Health to examine the sale, use and hazards of synthetic marijuana as well as bath salts.
Gina Johnson, a freshman secondary education major at Lubbock Christian University, first learned of the legal synthetic marijuana being sold in Lubbock smoke shops when her 18-year-old son became a user.
Johnson brought the substance to the Council’s attention Thursday during its meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem and Councilwoman for District 5 Karen Gibson said she was unaware of the substance’s legal sales until Johnson appeared before the Council.
Synthetic marijuana, Johnson said, is sold in about 30 smoke shops in Lubbock and although a person must be at least 18 years old to enter a smoke shop, the substance is available to people of all ages.
The side effects of the substance, she said, include hallucinations, vomiting, chills, sweating, paranoia and the possibility of high blood pressure.
Johnson said she knows this first-hand because her son has experienced most of the side effects.
She said she discovered her son was a user of synthetic marijuana in May.
“I’m still fighting with him on a daily basis, but I want to stop this before it gets any further,” she said. “People that don’t know that this is out there are still trying it, and they’re still having these massive effects. People that do know that it’s out there don’t know what these effects can be. They don’t know how severe it is.”
Synthetic marijuana, she said, is often called legal, K2, spice, scooby snax, SpongeBud and dopey.
Aside from simulating marijuana, Johnson said synthetic marijuana is 10 times more potent and addictive than normal marijuana.
The substance comes in small packages and may contain different chemicals and ingredients on a daily basis. This, she said, is why so many people have had harmful effects after using once or hundreds of times.
Although the City of Lubbock cannot take any official action yet, Gibson said she urges the Council to take the substance seriously.
The first step, however, is to study the health issues related to the use of the substance, she said.
Whereas a first step may be necessary, Gibson said she does not think it will be enough.
Gibson said she suggests an emergency 90-day ban on synthetic marijuana in the City of Lubbock until its effects can be further examined and more action can be taken.
The problem with placing an overall ban on the substance, she said, is that manufacturers can tweak the chemicals within the substance.
This makes the ban ineffective because it only can be placed on specific ingredients within the substance, Gibson said.
“These people can do whatever they want to,” she said. “It is sickening.”
She also said the City Attorney, Sam Medina, is checking into what legal action can be taken, including placing an age requirement for buyers.
Making people aware of the side effects of synthetic marijuana is the key to combat its usage, Gibson said.
“Our best bet is just going to be to educate people,” she said, “until we can figure out how to take care of it.”
Johnson said she has been urging smoke shops to discontinue the sale of synthetic marijuana, but the money generated from the substance is too good for many shops to pass up.
Smoke shops, Gibson said, are not without clientele either.
“This is a huge industry,” she said. “People are making a fortune off this stuff, and they’re marketing it to kids. It’s just crazy.”
Johnson said she is working on creating a website to educate people not only of the Lubbock community but also across the nation about the effects of synthetic marijuana.
On the website, she said she would list which businesses have not banned the sale of the substance on a “wall of shame.”
“A lot of (people) think that because it’s legal, it’s safe and it’s not,” Johnson said. “It’s not safe at all. And it’s not that it’s legal. It’s that we can’t keep up with these manufacturers to keep it banned.”
Johnson said she hopes a nationwide ban will be placed on all substances which simulate marijuana.
J.B. Felipe, a junior electronic media and communications major from Fort Worth, said he questions the safety of the substance, but is neutral in the argument against it.
“People are interested in trying new things, I guess, and it’s legal, and if they want to try it and they want to go for it, I’ll support it, but I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
However, Felipe said he sees the regulation of the substance in Lubbock as positive.
“I think the ban would be sort of a good thing,” he said. “It’s all about experiences, I guess, in college. People want to try synthetic marijuana and see what it does. There’s good and bad in it. It’s their choice.”
Johnson said she will attend every City Council meeting until legal action has been taken against synthetic marijuana.
She said if people know someone who is having a reaction to the substance, they should first call 911 and Poison Control second.