Denton County’s biggest drug fight may be against synthetic marijuana, according to the sheriff.
Sheriff Will Travis said in 2013 “fake pot,” often referred to as “Spice,” was the biggest drug problem in the county and the number one most confiscated drug; especially among teenagers.
"It's teens from 16 to 20 is what we're seeing it in,” said Travis. “We're seeing it in the school backpacks and things like that when the schools contact us and ask us what this is."
Travis believes the substances are such a problem because they are very easily accessible both online and in “head shops” where they’re sold as potpourri.
"It's legal; that's the problem we're dealing with,” he said.
Several forms of “Spice” have been put on banned drug lists and have been the subject of ordinances in several cities, however Travis said the compounds keep changing to stay ahead of the law.
Synthetic marijuana is often manufactured by people right here in North Texas, Travis said.
Those folks bring the legal potpourris in, in bulk, and add the chemical compound to it that he said causes the marijuana like effects as well as hallucinations.
"They pour it out and it's sprayed on them and then distributed in its three gram packages," said Travis.
He said while the substance keeps changing, the effects remain dangerous including increased heart rate and hallucinations that can turn violent.
“We've seen quite a few deals where kids are, what you'd hear as overdose, they're trying to kill themselves in different ways,” he said.
A few years ago synthetic marijuana got a lot of attention under the name K2. Several folks in Denton said they were surprised to hear the substances were still an issue.
"I'm pretty shocked. I didn't think it would come back,” said Perry Hill, of Denton, remembering some of the horror stories he’d heard in the past.
"It's still an issue, very much so and we're seeing a rise in it in Denton County here,” said Travis.
These days it’s found packaged under many different names with just different enough compounds to stay ahead of the law. Travis has confiscated it packaged under names like Widow-maker, Devil, and Afghan Ice; although he said those names will likely change completely in the coming months.
He said law enforcement and governments will continue to fight the compounds, but in the meantime the best way to fight the problems is with good parenting.
"You need to be a parent, you need to get in your kid's business,” Travis said.
He urges parents everywhere to keep an eye out for strange behavior in their kids and if they find synthetic marijuana to take it seriously, because it’s still around.