Since Illinois first reported this outbreak of synthetic marijuana-caused illness, hospitals have reported severe bleeding and kidney failure in four other states. Now that over 100 people have fallen ill, a special DEA task force is investigating synthetic marijuana in Illinois. This week, a 71-year-old woman charged with selling synthetic marijuana faces potential jail time.
Synthetic Marijuana in Illinois
On March 10, authorities reported the first instance of severe bleeding due to synthetic marijuana. In the following days, six more Illinois residents were hospitalized for profuse bleeding.
Also known as K2 or Spice, synthetic cannabis can produce a variety of dangerous symptoms, ranging from bleeding to liver and kidney failure to full-blown psychosis. Synthetic weed can contain anything: some batches even test positive for rat poison.
To date, the Illinois Department of Public Health has reported that hospitals have admitted 130 people for synthetic weed-related illnesses, and three people have died. The health department warns, “The health effects from using synthetic cannabinoids can be unpredictable and harmful—even life-threatening.”
Authorities Search For Those Distributing Synthetic Weed
Authorities in Illinois are attempting to prevent future synthetic weed-related illnesses by uncovering this dangerous batch’s source.
Last month, the Illinois police department began investigating convenience stores reportedly selling synthetic weed.
They even shut down one store in Lawndale that, allegedly, sold Spice.
This 71-year-old woman charged with selling synthetic marijuana is not the only person authorities are prosecuting. Three men who worked at King Mini Mart in Chicago are also facing charges for selling synthetic weed.
Federal Prosecutors Charge Letha Dean
The 71-year-old woman charged with selling synthetic marijuana is named Letha Dean. She lives in Salisbury, in central Illinois. Ms. Dean faces charges for possession of synthetic cannabis and attempts to distribute at her Springfield store, Mystic Enchantments.
Dean’s store sells, according to its Facebook page, a “wide selection of crystals, jewelry, herbs, candles, tarot cards, incense and oils.”
The arrest, lead by a specific synthetic weed task force, occurred last Friday. An undercover US marshall posed as a buyer and offered Ms. Dean $5,000 for 520 packets of synthetic cannabis.
She allegedly told the DEA agent that he looked like a federal agent.
After the sale, they arrested Dean, searched Mystic Enchantments and found 1,445 more packets of synthetic weed. In total, the authorities seized 26 pounds of the illicit substance.
This was the latest in a slew of investigations into Letha Dean’s store. Per a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court, Dean sold synthetic marijuana in 2015 and 2016. Authorities even went undercover and searched Dean’s home in 2016.
However, the Chicago Tribune reports that authorities have not linked the illnesses and deaths sweeping Illinois to Dean’s product, specifically. In the meantime, Letha Dean’s lawyer, Jay Elmore, has yet to publicly comment on her case. The police are holding Dean at Sangamon County Jail until further notice.
Final Hit: 71-Year-Old Woman Charged With Selling Synthetic Marijuana
This is the eighth arrest made in Illinois for the sale of synthetic marijuana as authorities ramp up their national investigation into this dangerous product.
Hopefully, this series of arrests will both curb synthetic weed sales and lead to legislation that limits access to these dangerous products.
Without a crackdown, synthetic weed will continue to claim victims across the country, and even in the military.