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News State / Region Young people spreading awareness about synthetic marijuana

In the words of Franklin resident Adrian Martinez, drug use in Macon County has become an epidemic, but the problem is not only in the case of illegal drug use, but includes “legal” drug use. Specifically, synthetic marijuana or “incense”, that can be bought at some local shops in Franklin.

Martinez and Cassady Ledford are tired of seeing friends and other young people hurt themselves with the use of the synthetic marijuana and have decided to do something about it. Last Friday they conducted a meeting with Senator Jim Davis and Sheriff Robbie Holland in an attempt to steer their attention towards the problem, and garner their support in ridding the town of the potentially dangerous substance.

Both Martinez and Ledford admitted that they had tried the drug themselves and described the feeling as hallucinatory. They also said the feeling may be accompanied by a variety of side-effects such as headaches, panic attacks, vomiting, blackouts, psychotic moments, etc. Beyond the initial effects, the drug can also lead to dependency that can result in withdrawal symptoms once a person tries to stop using.

“We've seen kids and adults have the same problems from using the drug, but its the kids who are taking the brunt of the negative effects of the drug,” said Martinez. “A kid that is anywhere from 12 to 17 can walk in to one of these shops that sell it and buy it with no problem. They don't get carded or anything. Then you have parents who see that their kids are hanging out at these places and are left wondering what is going on.” Their crusade began when they started to see friends of theirs use the drug and suffer ill-effects as a result.

“I had a phone call from a friend's mother asking for help about her son,” said Martinez. “I contacted the Sheriff and he said we could have him committed if he had threatened suicide and there was a day when all of those symptoms were hitting him at once and he actually did threaten suicide. He had been sick, he wouldn't eat, he wouldn't get out of bed. He couldn't get money for more and threatened to drive his car off a bridge.”

The state legislature has sought to address the issue by banning synthetic marijuana along with bath salts, which are also used as a drug.

“But when they banned it, they only banned it by name,” said Martinez. “Now you have these producers of the drug who go in and change one chemical and it's legal again.”

A new bill that is in the works in the North Carolina legislature is House Bill 685 which is modeled on an Oklahoma law that bans any substance that can imitate a substance used to get high that attaches to brain receptors. Senator Jim Davis has also introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

According to Davis, the bill has wide support in the N.C. General Assembly.

“The only people who won't support this bill are the drug dealers,” said Davis. “We're proud of our young people for working to build support around the bill and bring awareness to this serious issue that is bringing harm to our children.”

“When [Adrian] got the call from his friend's mother, we knew we had to do something,” said Ledford. “We weren't going to just sit back and watch. We're going to picket outside shops that sell it and try to spread awareness to parents. We've had friends at school who were at the top of their class who just fell to nothing in a matter of weeks.”

Ledford and Martinez plan on continuing their work by distributing informative flyers to the community and will take their message to the County Commissioners on June 11 in hopes of continuing to spread their message and to voice their support of H.B. 685.

A local gift shop, which, according to Martinez sells the “incense,” was not available for comment regarding the issue.

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