Children at several schools in the Manchester area have been hospitalized after vaping synthetic marijuana sold to them as genuine THC oil.
At least eight secondary school children attending schools in Bury, Rochdale, and Oldham have been sickened by fake THC weed vapes since November, according to the Greater Manchester Drug Alerts Panel. The children believed they were vaping THC oils, but authorities discovered that some of these oils actually contained synthetic marijuana, better known as Spice or K2.
Unlike real cannabis, synthetic marijuana can cause a number of serious side effects, including confusion, hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, irregular heartbeat, agitation, seizures, and even death. Synthetic cannabinoids can be ordered online from China and smuggled through customs far easier than genuine weed can, making it a popular product for black market drug dealers. Fake weed products are often sold to unsuspecting customers as genuine cannabis.
One of the eight students who consumed the Spice-laced oil reportedly suffered a seizure after puffing the vape. BBC News reports that several other students at an educational facility in Bury also became “heavily intoxicated” from vaping. Another young person in Rochdale collapsed after allegedly being forced to inhale a vape.
Authorities seized 30 bottles of oil that were sold to students as cannabis, and tested them to determine their chemical makeup. Seven of these bottles contained Spice, but no genuine THC. One of the remaining samples contained a large amount of THC, while many of the remaining samples contained no psychoactive compound whatsoever.
Police arrested three young boys last week for allegedly possessing and selling these illegal oils. Upon searching the children's homes, cops confiscated a number of illegal vaping products.
Michael Linnel, coordinator of The Greater Manchester Drug Alerts Panel, told The Independent that children who use Spice “risk the very bad reaction we have now seen on at least a dozen occasions.” Since February, at least 17 young people in the region have been sickened by vaping Spice.
Synthetic marijuana has become increasingly prevalent in countries and US states that continue to prohibit real pot. Last summer, hundreds of people in Washington D.C. and Chicago were hospitalized after consuming Spice that had been laced with rat poison. This fall, Louisiana cops discovered illegal Spice vapes disguised as legal CBD products, and in 2016, dozens of homeless people in Brooklyn overdosed on this dangerous chemical.
These incidents highlight the need for legal, regulated cannabis products. Some researchers still believe that cannabis use may pose a risk to adolescents, but even if this is true, these risks pale in comparison to the potentially deadly side effects of fake weed.