Broward News

Synthetic Pot Sends 29 to Hospital in Gainesville

The first dozen headed to Gainesville hospitals last Thursday and Friday. Although the Alachua County Sheriff's Office has yet to release the victims' names or ages, the one thing they certainly had in common was an affinity for Spice.

Although the drug typically produces a short high that can mostly be attributed to the placebo effect, one particular strand making its way around Gainesville is particularly potent. Yesterday, a man found behind Best Buy became the 29th person to suffer from seizures and convulsions after ingesting the fake weed that's popular among people on probation and others who can't/won't smoke actual pot (WHICH NOTABLY IS USED TO TREAT SEIZURES).

Spice started cropping up around 2000 and slowly gained popularity over the next decade. By 2010, it was extremely easy for college students seeking a headache to score Spice. Head shops and convenience stores lining University Avenue sold it like candy. Even though it wasn't particularly fun, there was almost immediate evidence that the stuff was habit-forming. Over the course of the next year, it was not uncommon to see people panhandling in front of places that sold it, trying to get a $30 fix.

See also: A Brief History of Banned, Fake, and Contentious Drugs in Florida

Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a temporary order in December 2012 to ban 27 different compounds used to make synthetic weed. Spice was officially banned in April of last year. But still, it's easy to skirt the law with designer drugs by making a few chemical tweaks.

Until yesterday, police officers and health officials were scrambling to locate the source of the drug. But the latest victim was able to pinpoint where he picked up. Land B4 Time, a head shop on Main Street, was raided, and several pounds of Spice were seized, along with a shotgun.

"We sent some it off to FDLE to figure out exactly what the chemical compound is," police officer Ben Tobias told the Gainesville Sun. "The law states that it has to be a certain chemical compound before we can charge anything."

The paper also reports that Land B4 Time now has a sign on it that reads: "Closed for Ever!!!" No word on why the store's owners decided to spell out the word "for" on a sign written while fleeing police but not in the name of their business.

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.