Sheriff: Source of synthetic marijuana not disclosed

The six men who went to the hospital Thursday night after smoking synthetic marijuana aren’t saying where they got the substance and haven’t been arrested, said Chief Tony Bacala of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“There may not be anything to charge with this. Unless there’s a sample you can send to the lab,” the men can’t be booked on anything, he said.

The deputies didn’t have samples that night, Bacala said.

“We had sick people,” he said.

The six men, who are now out of the hospital, came from “all over the town of Donaldsonville,” said Bacala.

“They were never together,” Bacala said.

On Thursday night, the Sheriff’s Office responded, as it usually does, along with EMS to 911 calls that came in, one by one, during a two-hour period.

The six men were taken separately to Prevost Memorial Hospital in Donaldsonville, with symptoms ranging from difficulty breathing, anxiety and cramps to at least one person being nonresponsive, Bacala said.

“The symptoms were significant but not life-threatening,” he said.

The men, who told hospital staff they had smoked synthetic marijuana, were treated and released, Bacala said. One of the men stayed at the hospital overnight before being released Friday morning; the others were released Thursday night.

The Sheriff’s Office thinks the synthetic marijuana the men smoked all came from the same source, Bacala said.

“This is certainly a warning about basement drug mixing and composition,” he said.

Synthetic marijuana is typically made of herbs sprayed with synthetic compounds.

In Louisiana, specific types of synthetic marijuana are outlawed, presently a list of dozens.

An emergency rule was signed March 20 by the secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals temporarily banning eight more forms of synthetic marijuana after Baton Rouge-area hospitals treated at least 100 people in a two-week period who were suffering from synthetic marijuana overdoses.

Symptoms of overdoses can include sedation, agitation, violent behavior, delirium and psychosis, Dr. William Elliott of Baton Rouge General Medical Center said at the time.

People who buy the item know it’s synthetic, Bacala said.

“The real difficulty is (the people who make it) try to stay one step ahead of the law, trying to make combinations not illegal yet in the state,” he said.

“It’s a nightmare for law enforcement,” he said.

Synthetic marijuana could be made with combinations of thousands of chemicals, he said.