Synthetic marijuana lights up the black market

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COLUMBIA - Despite bans placed on synthetic marijuana, drugs like it are still a large part of the underground drug trade.

Alex Stanley, manager at We B Smokin', said he receives around 15 calls a day from people looking for it. Synthetic marijuana, sometimes known as K2, is a chemical substance sold in the form of spice, like papyri, that delivers the same feelings of a marijuana high but also can cause hallucinations. It can be fatal. 

"There's totally a demand for it. We get calls all the time," Stanley said. 

Many of those calls might come from people who the public would expect. 

"I would think it would be teens but actually it's mostly adults, 35-45 year olds," Stanley said. "The draw is that it doesn't show up on a drug test. If you're in a field that your going to be drug tested often, those are the people coming in and looking for it." 

Tom O'Sullivan, detective for the Boone County Sheriff's Department, said synthetic marijuana has hit the black market. 

"We have not seen it go away since the bans. We've seen less commercial sales here in Boone County," O'Sullivan said. "But we are seeing more private individuals making their own K2 and selling it in the same way illegal drug dealers would pedal it." 

O'Sullivan said the sheriff's department is always pursuing new cases. 

"We have a proactive drug unit. We are constantly following up and investigating individuals known to us to be in the illegal drug trade," O'Sullivan said. 

But stopping the exchange of phony marijuana isn't easy according to O'Sullivan. 

"It's a constant cat and mouse game with these manufacturers of K2. A number of the substances used to make K2 have been banned, so these individuals making it just alter the recipe a little to where the substance is not 'illegal' and then the legislature comes back and they re-write the law." 

Stanley said he doesn't understand why people smoke the substance. 

"I think it's a little bit worrisome that people would smoke something like that," Stanley said. "It clearly says on it, not for human consumption, which is what they say to get around the law, but that means they don't have to care if it's safe to use. There's lead shavings, brain-swelling chemicals, I don't know why you would risk your life with something like that."