PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Washington County Drug Task Force has arrested eight people for their role in selling and distributing synthetic marijuana.
Officials say there has been a dramatic rise in the synthetic drug in Washington County, which is commonly called "K2" or "spice."
"With 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds, and they were saying this is their substance of choice. This is becoming widespread," said Dr. Neil Capretto, the medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation.
Over a two-year investigation, a law enforcement team - made up of the Washington County District Attorney's Drug Task Force, State Police, Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms - confiscated a huge amount of the designer drug.
"After an investigation that began in 2011, my office has issued arrest warrants for eight people," said District Attorney Eugene Vittone.
The eight are charged with selling the illegal synthetic marijuana from convenience stores, gas stations and other businesses in Washington County. Those stores are now under new ownership.
"They get it in these convenience stores, they think it's safe. This is a very powerful, dangerous chemical," says Dr. Capretto.
The eight people arrested for their involvement are Snehal Patel of Venetia, Pratishka Patel of Venetia, Kailash Patel of Venetia, Andrew Schade of Carnegie, Dharmesh Jain of Washington, Randy Berger, of Fox Chapel, Richard Schran of Donora and David Dibello of Washington.
All are charged on multiple counts, including possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver and sales of drug paraphernalia.
Vittone says they were allegedly making big bucks.
"They were making anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 a day," he said.
Like just about everything else, most synthetic marijuana begins in China where toxic chemicals are made, sent to the U.S. and sprayed on herbs. There is no marijuana in "synthetic marijuana."
The substance is also sold under brand names like "Black Magic Smoke" and "Funky Green Stuff."
There is little doubt the stuff is being marketed to kids. Some brands come with blueberry and strawberry flavoring.
Emergency rooms report frightening side effects like chemically-burned lungs, paranoia, rapid heartbeat, vomiting and erratic behavior.
"These are very dangerous substances and parents need be aware of them," says Dr. Capretto.
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