ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Four are dead from severe bleeding and people around the state are terrified there might be more. New cases are reported every day because people are smoking something which used to be legal.
You can never be sure what’s in synthetic marijuana, so even if you’re buying it in a package or behind a counter, you don’t know what you’re putting into your body.
It’s a dried plant material sprayed with chemicals. 150 people in Illinois have ingested rat poison by smoking it. One man says it almost killed him.
“I came here to go to work and it felt like someone was stabbing me in the stomach with a knife.”
August Sarver’s body was shutting down.
“It was scary, very scary.”
The stabbing in his stomach was poison. He didn’t know until he was raced to the hospital and told the worst.
“I’m going to die. I’m seriously going to die, ’cause all you ever hear about rat poison is it turns your innards to mush and you just start bleeding out of every orifice. Well, I was already bleeding out my penis, so I didn’t want to start bleeding everywhere else.”
His friends were already there. One was bleeding out of his eyes. All of them fighting to survive.
“The guy in the room right next door to us passed away. It freaked me out because my friends were across the hall and down the hall and the next floor under and I couldn’t talk to any of them because we had to stay in our beds.”
Sarver and his friends smoked synthetic marijuana.
“So, I had to sit there not knowing if they were dying or not.”
He first tried it nine years ago. It the time, it couldn’t be traced in employee drug tests and he was hooked. He became so addicted, he says he would wake up in the middle of the night to smoke it and wouldn’t leave town for fear of withdrawals.
“There’s no way to know what’s in there. There’s no way to know how that’s going to affect you.”
UI Police Lt. Joseph McCullough knows what the drugs can do. He believes people feel safe buying them over the counter at stores. They’re shipped from overseas and come with dozens of warnings.
“Not for human consumption is on the bag, but they employ people, sometimes child labor to come in and spray that chemical onto the potpourri to make that attempt to make people high. There’s no quality control over it ’cause somebody could spray that substance too long on one spot and miss a little bit. We don’t know what that substance is half the time or what they’re mixing into it.”
Synthetic marijuana is now illegal in Illinois, but it’s not stopping people from selling it, especially when it only costs pennies to make and can be sold for up to $30.
“Yes, they would do it. You’d go in and you’d stand around and wait and the person would leave in the shop that the person was waiting for behind the counter and the he’d be like, ‘Okay, what do you need?’ and that’s when you’d order it and get it and then you’d grab it before the next customer walked in and then head out, so I mean, it was totally underground.”
“There are places that still sell it. Law enforcement is actively pursing cases in that area. We don’t want that to be sold. It’s illegal to be sold. It’s illegal to consume.”
Sarver now takes 20 pills a day; most of them Vitamin K, the main treatment for the poisoning. It’s a routine he’ll do for the next year.
“It ruined my life temporarily. I’m starting over again.”
Since his scare, he’s enrolled in college and is getting his life back on track. He hopes others learn from his near-death experience.
“Quit smoking. Go to the doctor’s if you are smoking it, at least get your blood tested because it could kill you.”
Police say testing K-2 is difficult and expensive. Manufacturers change the ingredients just a little to skirt the law. It’s costs and many law enforcement agencies only have the ability to test whether the drug is legal or illegal.
To actually find out what’s in synthetic marijuana, it would have to be sent to a lab in Pennsylvania and each test can cost up to $400.
A Peoria man was arrested for selling Synthetic Marijuana with rat poisoning. Lonne Smith is charged with drug-induced homicide, aggravated battery and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. He could spend 6 – 30 years in prison.
For more on this interview, click here.