EASLEY — It was the outcry of the community that sparked a multi-agency investigation that culminated in the arrests last week of seven people and seized assets, but for law enforcement the payoff is more important than money or cars.
The target of the operation was a product marketed and sold as a potpourri product but whose true purpose was to create a sensation similar to marijuana. The dangers and side effects of what has been projected misleadingly as “synthetic marijuana” are what the community was hoping to eliminate.
“A mother in Easley had two sons who went and got some of this junk, this trash, and one of them went unconscious and the other was in a coma for almost two days,” Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark said at a press conference about the operation. “That’s why we’re here today, because of those two young kids and young people across this state and across the country.”
The side effects of smoking the chemically treated potpourri, which alone is harmless, include “hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, a sense of initial well-being followed by terror, panic attacks, vomiting, and agitation.”
According to Easley Police Chief Danny Traber, this synthetic drug is second only to marijuana usage for the age group 16 to 18.
“These children, as young 16 were obtaining the product you see in front of us,” Traber said. “These children were being transported by parents to hospitals and we got numerous complaints. This investigation started just over a year ago.”
While the manufacture of the potpourri substance which is smoked is not illegal, the chemical components added to the potpourri are a dangerous narcotic with harmful, often lethal side effects.
“The people in China don’t care what they do to our country,” Clark said. “They’ll put anything in it to get the high and get it to sell and that’s why we’re trying to stop it.”
13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins was clear when speaking about the drug’s side effects and the need to rid South Carolina of the product.
“It’s misleading, calling it synthetic marijuana. This is a chemical designed to mimic the effects of marijuana, but it’s far more dangerous. The side effects of this drug can be lethal and it’s being sold over the counter in South Carolina. Each time we outlaw or change the laws to get something off the shelf, they change the chemical compound just enough to try to get by. That’s the biggest hurdle we face.”