Police say teenagers have found a new way to get high and it is legal for now.
After spice, a marijuana-like drug was outlawed earlier this year in Arizona due to a number of people going to the emergency room for seizures, racing heartbeat and elevated blood pressure, manufacturers have come out with a new product potentially just as dangerous, police say.
Payson police are urging parents to watch out for potpourri, synthetic marijuana that can also cause health problems.
The substance is being sold in several stores throughout town and is legal for anyone to buy.
Just a month ago, thieves broke into the One Stop Convenience Store at Bonita Street and Highway 87, and the only thing they took was potpourri, said Payson Police Det. Matt Van Camp. The break-in happened overnight when the store was closed and the thieves were wearing disguises.
The store had just put the product on its shelves a week earlier and the thieves wiped out the stock. Officers are still looking for suspects.
Potpourri packages instruct users that it is not for human consumption, however, the “potpourri” has no legitimate use and is intended for substance abuse, police say.
“What is happening, is that spice got outlawed in Arizona so the chemists that are involved with the manufacturing end of that have changed the chemical makeup of what was being sold as spice to a different compound,” said Payson Police Chief Don Engler. “It is just a little different chemical makeup than what was previously available.”
Although not the same product, the effects are similar.
When smoked, people report a high, but that high has potentially dangerous consequences.
The chemical compounds in spice, for example, were up to 700 times more potent than the active ingredient in marijuana and in some people resulted in seizures, stroke, anxiety, visual disturbances, racing heartbeat and elevated blood pressure.
“It was outlawed after people had serious medical complications especially teenagers,” Engler said.
There is no age limit to buy potpourri because it is not being sold as an ingestible substance.
“I think they have synthetically, chemically, added an odor to it to further that perception that it is potpourri,” Engler said.
The police department is working with the school district to educate students about the danger of its use.
In February, Governor Jan Brewer signed legislation that banned spice. Before the legislation, similar substances were marketed as a legal alternative to marijuana. Sold by smoke shops and other retailers, spice is a plant-like material that is sprayed with a combination of specific chemical substances and smoked.
Engler hopes the law will catch up and ban potpourri as well.
Several other states have already banned spice and several cities and towns across the country are currently considering bans on potpourri.