Synthetic pot peddled in Vancouver shops
Health experts warn high potency could be 'extremely dangerous'
Posted: Feb 26, 2013 5:46 AM PT
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2013 7:44 PM PT
A CBC News hidden-camera investigation has found that a new, potentially dangerous substance being marketed as synthetic marijuana is now being sold openly in some Vancouver-area shops.
A similar substance has been blamed for death and brain damage in the U.S. In Canada it is sold in mass-produced foil packages under names like K2 and Spice.
The price list, plainly posted on the counter of one Vancouver head shop on Granville Street, shows the synthetic pot goes for $29.99 for three grams.
The owner, who was behind the counter, is seen in concealed-camera footage telling a customer that smoking the substance works like marijuana.
“Three puffs makes you high,” the owner said.
CBC News also purchased K2 at a store in Burnaby, B.C., as part of the investigation.
Selling compounds that produce a pharmacological effect similar to marijuana is illegal in Canada.
Manufacturers declare in printed instructions on the packaging that the substances are “aromatherapy incense mix” or “herbal blends,” and are “not for human consumption.”
'Same as marijuana'
But users are not discouraged from smoking it.
When asked if it’s dangerous to use, the owner in the Granville Street store said it wasn’t.
“Oh no, this is the same as marijuana,” he said.
'From a health point of view, it’s extremely dangerous.'—Medical specialist Paul Daeninck
Varieties of K2 seized in the U.S. and analyzed showed it was actually dried plant material laced with synthetic chemicals that mimic natural substances called cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the active ingredient in marijuana.
But the potency of synthetic marijuana can be many times greater, judging from reported incidents in the U.S., where it has been blamed for psychotic episodes among young users, kidney damage, seizures and death.
Expert issues warning
Dr. Paul Daeninck, a Winnipeg oncologist, specializes in cannabinoids for medical purposes and said the synthetic variety should not be consumed.
“From a health point of view, it’s extremely dangerous, incredibly dangerous to be playing with any of this stuff,” Daeninck told CBC News.
The proprietor of the Granville Street shop refused an interview request from CBC News.Manufacturers print on the package that K2 is not for human consumption, but some retailers might suggest otherwise. (CBC)
At one Vancouver high school, many students CBC News spoke to said they had not heard of K2, but some said they knew other youths who were using it.
Police raided shops selling synthetic pot in Calgary two years ago. Police in Winnipeg and in Windsor told CBC News that they are looking into the matter. Vancouver police say they have not received any complaints about it.
CBC News is taking steps to securely destroy the packages it purchased during this investigation.
Corrections and Clarifications
- An earlier version of this story stated that police had raided shops in Winnipeg that were selling synthetic pot. Police in Winnipeg clarified that they had planned raids, and may be planning more. Feb 26, 2013 3:16 PM PT
Latest British Columbia News Headlines
- Vancouver man abandons Porsche on B.C. ferry
- A Vancouver man left his Porsche on a B.C. ferry last night, and the luxury vehicle is now in a police impound lot. more »
- Separated bike lane could be coming to Point Grey
- The City of Vancouver is considering a separated bike path along Cornwall Avenue and Point Grey Road in the city's Point Grey neighbourhood. more »
- Coal terminal expansion vital, argues Fraser Surrey Docks
- The CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks says the future of the facility is in jeopardy if a new coal terminal isn't approved. more »
- Trudeau raises environmental questions over pipeline
- Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says a proposed west-east pipeline project will not go forward unless it addresses key environmental concerns. more »
Top News Headlines
- 2nd suspect in Tim Bosma murder case to plead not guilty
- The lawyer for Mark Smich says the Oakville, Ont., resident will plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Tim Bosma, the Hamilton man who disappeared earlier this month after taking two men on a test drive of his truck. Smich was charged today, after Dellen Millard of Toronto was also charged with first-degree murder. more »
- 2 more arrests linked to hacking death of British soldier
- WARNING: This story contains graphic content. Two more people have been arrested by officers investigating the hacking death of a U.K. soldier in London, say British police. more »
- Neil Macdonald: Harper no Obama when it comes to dealing with scandals
- Beset by three so-called scandals at the moment, Barack Obama has been meeting his accusers and the press head on, Neil Macdonald writes. The same cannot be said for how Stephen Harper operates. more »
- Rob Ford: Councillors, media want answers on crack issue
- Newspaper editorials and commentators are expressing frustration over Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's silence on allegations he was captured on video smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. more »
- B.C. teen saves pet dog in 'terrifying' cougar attack
- Vancouver man abandons Porsche on B.C. ferry
- 750 homes sliding away in Quesnel, B.C.
- Plumber's car explodes near Vancouver apartments
- Flood watch underway in central B.C. Interior
- New West parkade a blight on revitalized waterfront
- Man stabbed in Vancouver
- 2 men found in Kalamalka Lake near Vernon, B.C.
- Adrian Dix to stay on as B.C. NDP leader despite election loss