War on Drugs

A 14-Year-Old Pittsburgh Boy Didn't Die From Smoking Synthetic Marijuana, He Died From Smoking it Out of a Pez Dispenser


As much as the hodge-podge of chemicals in "synthetic marijuana" sound worse for you than the regular, extra-banned stuff, the recent grim headlines suggesting that a 14-year-old Pittsburgh boy died after smoking fake pot are not quite what they seem:

This wpxi.com story describes the boy's death:

The boy smoked the fake marijuana out of a plastic PEZ candy dispenser and suffered chemical burns to both lungs as a result. He was put on a respirator in June and had a double-lung transplant in September.

It takes a bit more clicking to get the a much clearer story on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's website:

Dr. J. Douglas Bricker, dean of Duquesne University's Mylan School of Pharmacy, said that although he doesn't underestimate the danger of the ingredients in the man-made designer drug, smoking synthetic marijuana in a plastic PEZ dispenser would have been a "significant factor" in Brandon's death.

"It's (the drug) fairly potent, but nothing in the literature has been shown to cause any lung toxicity," he said. But Bricker said plastic—such as that found in the candy dispenser—heated at high temperatures will release highly toxic cyanide gas and carbon monoxide.

The drug is sold on the Internet in 50- to 500-milligram packets for $25 to $75 each. The drug can cause seizures, vomiting, high blood pressure, heart problems and psychological problems such as paranoia, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Weirdly enough, these three paragraphs are near the bottom of the longer story which has a lede that still vaguely describes the death as being from "a double-lung transplant after synthetic marijuana smoked in a PEZ candy dispenser destroyed his lungs."

However much the synthetic marijuana contributed to the boy's death, we can be confident one regular joint ha never caused anyone to need a double lung transplant. Nor has weed-flavored candy.

(Mostly) Jacob Sullum on imitation speed and fake pot.

(Hat tip for the first link: the ebullient capitol l)