DUI & Synthetic Marijuana

Question: My son was arrested for DUI in Woodstock over the weekend. Apparently he got into an accident and when the police came he was acting like a crazy person. The cops said he was running in circles, then acting like a dog and then he tried to climb up a tree saying that he was being attacked by a raccoon. It sounds crazy but that was what the police officer said when I went to pick up his car.

The next day when we bailed him out of jail he admitted to me that he used synthetic marijuana. He said all his friends at Kennesaw State University use it to get high. He said he didn't know what he was doing after he smoked it and that he got really paranoid.

He said he used the drug before but never had these terrible symptoms. He said the only strange think that happened to him in the past when he smoked the fake weed was that he woke up on a golf course without his pants on.

He said that he feels ashamed and that he wanted to apologize to the Woodstock cop because he urinated in the back of the car.

Obviously it's a crime to drive all drugged up. But since it's not the real marijuana, it's synthetic, is that a possible defense?

D.H. in Woodstock, Georgia

Answer: Synthetic marijuana, sometimes called "K2," "Spice" or other names, is increasingly being abused. Its use is spreading across the country and it is being increasingly found in Georgia. Synthetic drugs can be extremely dangerous and addictive. They are not tested for safety, of course, and users don't know exactly what chemicals they are ingesting.

Synthetic pot is made from dried plants (like oregano or basil) then sprayed with a variety of chemicals (it really could be anything). When inhaled it produces immediate and intense mental effects on the user. Sometimes these drugs are labeled as incense, potpourri and herbal mixtures. Synthetic pot is priced far below real marijuana, so it's a very cheap "high." Many users believe these drugs are "natural" and are therefore safe.

Health effects from the drug can be life-threatening, including a link between the synthetic pot and strokes, abnormal heart rhythms and psychosis in otherwise healthy young adults. Indeed, people have died from it.

As for a legal defense, the fact that it's not actually marijuana will not help. If a person is a less safe driver because of the ingestion of a drug, whether that drug is legal or not, that person may be charged with DUI under Georgia law. The fact that it is "synthetic" is not a defense.

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