There’s a reason Baltimore City banned stores from selling so-called synthetic marijuana in 2016. The substance, often branded as “K2” or “Spice” and sold at gas stations and corner stores, is usually made with a potpourri of leaves and various unknown chemicals designed to mirror marijuana’s effects. It’s been known to induce severe physical problems, such as heart attacks, kidney failure and extreme bleeding.
The last result has made headlines recently in Maryland. On Monday, state poison control officials revealed a fourth person in just two weeks had been hospitalized for “extreme bleeding” after using the synthetic substance. The cases followed an outbreak of hundreds of others in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin. In Illinois specifically, three people died after using fake weed laced with rat poison.
In light of the synthetic weed scare, Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen issued a reminder and a warning about the stuff on Tuesday. She noted three of Maryland’s four cases have been patients from the Baltimore area.
“Synthetic cannabinoids have been touted as natural, but are extremely dangerous because they contain untested chemical compounds that can have devastating effects for users,” Wen said in a statement. “Scientists call taking these substances ‘playing Russian Roulette,’ because the user does not know what one is ingesting, and that substance could harm or kill.”
Wen’s statement offered a list of alarming symptoms from using synthetic marijuana—”excessive bleeding, anxiety, bruising, elevated blood pressure, seizures, and suicidal or harmful thoughts or actions”—and urged anyone who witnesses them to call 911. (It also said you can report businesses selling synthetic marijuana by calling 311.)
Wen said the Baltimore City Health Department is disseminating an information sheet about the dangers of synthetic marijuana. Just in case your local health care provider didn’t get one, here’s a copy.
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