The designer drug dilemma is far from over - at least that's what former synthetic marijuana addict Steven Johnson believes.
"There's no solution. That's the problem. That stuff will always be sold, because it was made, because it was created," Johnson says.
So why did Johnson stop lighting up? He says it's simple. This 20-year-old didn't want to end up dead.
"If I continued smoking, I would have ended up dead on the street," Johnson says.
That's exactly why the Lubbock City Council is trying to snuff out the drug, by banning a laundry list of compounds used to make it.
"It didn't change a damn thing, because all you have to do is change one thing. It's ungodly easy," Johnson says.
After one year with the new restrictions, we wanted to see what was actually available in Lubbock stores. Johnson agreed to wear a hidden camera and visit three local smoke shops.
"It's really easy. All you have to do is ask for it by name: Advocate, Ripped, Effed Up," Johnson says
Steven purchased the substances that resembled what he says got him high in the past, despite a warning label that read, "not for human consumption."
But here's the twist: City Council is banning the ingredients that make up synthetic pot, but no one package that Johnson purchased listed a single ingredient.
If we don't know what's in them, we don't know if selling them violates the law.
So why are city leaders banning a list of ingredients that can't be identified? Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry Dr. David Klein believes the issue runs deeper.
"These compounds can be made into difference analogs - small changes can be made and none of the compounds are tested," Klein says.
The city could potentially ban compounds all day long, but Klein says the money just isn't there to test for them.
"Their concern is these are not felonies at this point, so there's really no way to get back the amount of money it takes to set this up," Klein says.
Klein believes the solutions bleeds outside city limits to state and federal legislation that would ban compound groups.
"Making rules about those general compounds is what people are going for," Klein says.
But until that happens, Johnson thinks the synthetic smoke will continue to rise despite any efforts at City Hall.
"The drug war is never going to be won," Johnson says.
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