By: Julia Deng
ECTOR COUNTY - Synthetic marijuana is facing an aggressive crackdown in West Odessa, even though an ordinance outlawing the drug does not apply beyond Odessa city limits.
"We don't have our own [county] ordinance banning synthetic marijuana like the city of Odessa, but there is a state law that applies to all of us," explained Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson. "Don't buy it [and] don't put it in your store because we're going to come get it. We are seizing it everywhere we know [they're selling it]."
The Texas Controlled Substances Act outlaws sales of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, including fake pot.
The National Institutes of Health defines it as a "wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana." It is often marketed as "herbal incense" and sold under names including "K2," "Yucatan Fire," "Skunk," "Moon Rocks" and "Spice," according to habitual smokers who requested anonymity.
Donaldson said Sheriff's deputies had seized synthetic marijuana from two businesses in the past month. The most recent raid, on April 17, yielded more than 20 pounds of the substance.
"It was at Big-Tex Outer Limits on south West County Road," he told NewsWest 9.
Nobody from the smokeshop was arrested, according to Donaldson. Owners of Big-Tex Outer Limits, which was still open for business on Tuesday, did not return calls for comment.
"The fact that [the store where synthetic marijuana was seized] is still there is really scary," said Kelly Smith*. "It's not just young adults getting it. It's also teenagers."
Her younger brother, now 22, was one of those people.
"He got his hands on this stuff, smoked it once and woke up the next morning going into grand mal seizures," said Smith. "It was all because of this substance in particular. It broke my heart that morning, holding him and not knowing if that was going to be my last time seeing him alive."
She said her brother had "easily" purchased the drug that nearly killed him at "one of those little shops in West Odessa" and cautioned others against experimenting with it.
Sheriff Donaldson's advice for people still curious about the psychoactive high supposedly produced by synthetic marijuana?
"Why don't you come down here and look at people in jail who have smoked this stuff?" he recommended. "See how they act and see if that's how you want to act... We get people arrested that are high on [synthetic marijuana] and because of the way they're acting we have to put them in a violent cell for their own protection. They're out of their minds."
*Name has been changed.