LIHUE — Constantly-changing synthetic drugs that are dangerous and odorless, along with higher THC marijuana, were a prominent discussion topic at the crime prevention seminar Friday at Kauai Memorial.
Chief Keith Kamita of the state Department of Public Safety — Narcotics Enforcement Division, delivered a presentation on the dangers of synthetic drugs. He also cautioned the public about the dangers of contemporary marijuana.
“People ask why are we so worried about marijuana when we have a meth problem?” Kamita said. “There are over 2,000 chemicals in marijuana today and it is much different than what we had year ago with a 1 to 4 percent THC level, that is now about 15 to 20 percent and when concentrated it is up to 40 to 60 percent.”
There were 35 marijuana related bills from decriminalization to legalization and expanding the medicinal programs this year, he said. Only two passed and they were related to medicinal use.
The first amendment took effect on June 25, and establishes a medical marijuana registry special fund to pay for the program. It will also transfer the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health by Jan. 1, 2015.
The second amendment will take effect on Jan. 2, 2015, and after the transition to the Department. of Health. It will require the physician recommendation for a permit to be made by the patient’s primary care physician.
The amendment also redefines possession of “adequate marijuana supply” to mean seven plants. It allows a permit holder to have up to four ounces of usable marijuana at any given time.
Kamita also cautioned against THC liquid extraction processes that produce a molasses-like “honey oil” that is 100 percent THC and dangerously potent. It vaporizes instantly when smoked, he said.
People are converting electronic cigarettes and using the oil as an almost odorless method to smoke marijuana in public, he said.
“They can smoke it anywhere and it’s going to be the behavior we have to watch out for,” Kamita said.
Spice drugs and other synthetic cannabinoids that were once known as a “legal high” also present a potent threat, he said. The manufacturers attempt to skirt the law by spraying them onto potpourri and other non-edible products with labels saying that it is not meant for human consumption.
Each time a state outlaws a specific drug the manufacturers alter the chemical compound slightly, he said. Hawaii and Kansas are two states that began banning entire families of compounds to stay ahead of these efforts.
“Every time a new drug comes out I have to research it and schedule it,” Kamita said. “Then they change the drug and it’s legal again and I have to make the whole family of drugs illegal.”
This chemical marijuana is up to 200 times stronger, he said. It causes an elevated heart rate and raises blood pressure, causing seizures, paranoia, severe panic and hallucination.
The effect on the brain is more closely related to crystal meth and ecstasy than the marijuana of years ago, he said.
The synthetic cathanode variety is deadly, he said. It is often sold as bath salts or plant food, at about 35 times the cost of the non-treated products.
The drug has led to people eating live animals or tearing up their faces, he said.
“They go into a primal state, screaming and laughing, they can’t even talk,” Kamita said.
Illegal chemical labs are also producing methylenedioxyprovalerone drugs that is sold as energy drink when the effect is like a schedule one hallucinogen. It also raises blood pressure, heart rates, and body temperature, causing agitation, seizures, organ failure and death.
The “NBOM” is sold as legal LSD and is commonly use by youth and adults at Rave shows and night clubs. The effect of the drug in a sound and light show produces excited delirium but also onset violent behavior and death, Kamita said.
The concern is that Rave clubs don’t sell alcohol, and parents believe their kids are going to a safe event, he said. He said to look at their eyes to see of they are dilated.
Around 40 people attended the public safety event. It was organized by Kauai Chamber of Commerce as a business community effort to contribute to crime prevention.
“This is a partnership between business and government,” said Chamber President and CEO Randy Francisco. “The prosecuting attorney and the police cannot do it all.”
George Costa, director of the county Office of Economic Development, also heads the Mayor’s Crime Task Force. He said the group includes people from the government, business and private sector who meet monthly.