By: Julia Deng
ODESSA - Synthetic marijuana, a deadly drug that mimics the high produced by cannabis, is what killed Tammy Cardenas's daughter at age 22.
"Her fiance found her on the floor and the kush was beside her body," Cardenas told NewsWest 9, sobbing. "She got her engagement ring eight days before she died."
Her daughter, Crystal Bundy, had moved to Odessa from Georgia for work.
"Somehow, she got her hands on some synthetic weed," her mother said.
The night Bundy was found dead in November 2014 was reportedly her first time experimenting with the drug.
Her fiance found her unresponsive and called for help, panicking.
"My husband and I got there before most of the paramedics had gotten there," said Cardenas. "She was already dead. Her body was already going cold."
Cardenas spent the next few months grieving, but is now speaking out about her daughter's death and starting a foundation to raise awareness about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.
"I just want to get the message out there how dangerous this drug is," she told NewsWest 9. "If my daughter can move to another state where she don't know that many people and get her hands on it, it's too easy to get a hold of."
Synthetic marijuana, often referred to as "spice" or "K2," can be produced in laboratories by spraying psychoactive chemicals or artificial cannabinoid materials onto an "herbal base."
Like other illegal drugs, it has not been tested for safety.
According to doctors, adverse affects include severe agitation and anxiety; fast, racing heartbeat and high blood pressure; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasms, seizures and tremors; intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes; suicidal thoughts; and death.
Poison control centers nationwide received more than 3,600 calls about cases of synthetic marijuana exposure in 2014, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
The drug has been illegal within Odessa city limits since 2013, but is reportedly "easy to buy" in West Odessa.
One woman, who chose to remain anonymous, told NewsWest 9 "several shops in West Odessa" are known to sell synthetic marijuana to "anyone, including children."
Melvin Herron, who owns a vape shop in Odessa, has witnessed the popularity of the drug skyrocketing in recent years.
"When we first opened the Vape Shack, people mistook it for a head shop," he said. "We're within city limits and [distributing synthetic marijuana is] illegal here, but you wouldn't believe the countless people who call us asking if we sell it."
Cardenas "has no idea" where her daughter acquired the bag of synthetic marijuana that killed her.
"I only know it's too easy to buy out there [in West Texas]," she said.
The state Senate's criminal justice committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would make it a felony to possess, make or distribute compounds found in synthetic drugs.