Earlier this week, a federal criminal complaint was filed by prosecutors against a former smoke shop owner and her employee over the death of a young man who smoked synthetic marijuana purchased from the shop located within a west suburban mall. That young man was Max Dobner, an excellent college student, loyal brother, loving son and fine young man who made the simple mistake of believing that this synthetic product purchased at his local mall was both legal and safe. If Max had any clue as to how dangerous this product was he would have never tried it. I can say this with confidence because our firm had the honor of representing Max's family in a civil lawsuit for his wrongful death.
Tragically, and despite frequent news reports, the real dangers of these toxic and lethal products still go unrecognized by many. According to a press release issue this week by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), poison control centers throughout the United States have experienced a dramatic spike in calls related to exposure to synthetic cannabinoids. AAPCC reports that between January 1, 2015 and April 22, 2015 poison control centers have received 1,900 exposure calls from people experiencing adverse reactions to these drugs. This figure represents a fourfold increase over calls in 2014.
The sobering truth behind these statistics is that people still don't understand the magnitude of the dangers these products present. According to Dr. Eric Wish, director of the Coordinating Center for the National Institute on Drug Use (NIDA), "[o]ur research shows that people are playing Russian Roulette with their lives because only the chemist creating the synthetic cannabinoid really knows what is in it." The health effects from these drugs include inter alia: death, brain damage, permanent neurologic disorders, intense hallucinations, psychotic episodes, severe agitation, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Our hope is that criminal prosecutions, like the one brought over Max's death, along with additional press coverage of these cases and more education will prevent someone else from falling victim to the very real dangers of these drugs.