Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
In September, a 16-year-old boy in Sidney, Neb., reportedly high on a new kind of drug, drove his car through a house. The drug, known by such names as "herbal incense" and "mojo," emerged in Europe in 2004 and has spread rapidly. It is already prevalent in New Orleans, and emergency rooms from Florida to California are seeing increasing numbers of people under its influence.
Sold under such benign-sounding names as Serenity Now, Spice, K2 and Mister Nice Guy, herbal incense is made up of legal herbs that are coated with a synthetic cannabinoid that mimics THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, and produces a marijuana-like high. It's of particular concern because it doesn't smell like marijuana and doesn't show up on drug screening that tests urine (but it can be detected by a blood test). In fact, manufacturers market it as "drug test-proof."
Sold openly at herbal and "head shops," and on the Internet (check out Amazon.com!), products generally say they contain "natural herbs." They also contain warnings that they are "not for human consumption."
Yet many people are smoking them. Some of the reported side effects include increased heart and blood pressure rates, dizziness, nausea and agitation. Emergency rooms also report people coming in with disorientation, vomiting, anxiety attacks and chemical burns in the throat and lungs, and some users have become addicted and suffer classic withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the product.
Because herbal incense is not federally regulated, manufacturers can insert whatever chemicals they want, and in fact, ingredients in herbal incense vary widely from one manufacturer to another. One scientific investigator, John W. Huffman, is quoted on WebMD as saying, "It is like Russian roulette to use these drugs. We don't know a darn thing about them for real."
Marilyn Huestis, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute for Drug Abuse, is quoted on the same site as saying, "When you take these drugs, you are hijacking the part of the brain important for many functions: temperature control, food intake, perception, memory, and problem-solving. And people taking these high-potency drugs are affecting other important functions throughout their bodies — hormone functions, for example."