On Monday, state health officers linked two deaths and dozens of sick patients to synthetic marijuana. The drug, also known as K2, was found the same day, according to authorities, in large amounts laced with a toxic substance used in rat poison. The mixture was being sold at a West Side convenience store.

According to The Chicago Tribune, synthetic marijuana is a hand-made mixture that contains hundreds of chemicals and affects the same brain cell receptors – the same ones that pot affects, as some analysts agree. K2 can be sprayed on a plant, making it smokable, or smoked in vaporizers and other smoking devices.

Authorities estimated that about 17 people have been hospitalized in Chicago, and that the first man whose death was linked to K2 had reportedly used the drug before being hospitalized for severe internal bleeding. The second man whose death is still being investigated is already thought to be similar to the first one, according to the state police.

Selling K2 at local stores

About a week ago, the Illinois State police gave information to the Chicago police about somebody who had presented adverse side effects after using a synthetic pot, allegedly bought at King Mini Mart. The state police did not hesitate to act right away, and they sent an undercover officer to the store to buy some K2.

The officer was able to carry his mission smoothly. Once already achieved, the CPD’s Vice Control License Section Unit examined the store.

Synthetic cannabinoids, Cannabis, Illinois
At least two deaths and dozens of people affected by synthetic marijuana and rats poison. Image credit: Getty

The two employees were kept behind the counter and behind the store. They found 1,920 grams of the drug in a bucket. Jad Allah, one of the employees, had several packages of K2 in his pockets.

Jad Allah, 44 years old, and Mohammed, 44 as well, were both arrested on Sunday.

Fouad Masoud, 48 years old, the owner of the King Mini Mart, at 1303 S. Kedzie Ave in Lawndale, heard about the arrest shortly before he was seen. When that happened, the police were on a stakeout at his townhouse, leaving with a grocery bag with $280,000 inside. In Masoud’s townhouse, authorities found 2,900 grams of the synthetic cannabis labeled “Purple Giant.”

The three men now could be facing up to 20 years in prison after the undercover officer caught them during an illegal sale of the K2 – which was branded with names that included “Blue Giant,” “Crazy Monkey,” and “Matrix,” according to a federal complaint.

Fly high and bleed fast

State and local officers decided to issue a warning about a new symptom that synthetic marijuana was causing: excessive bleeding from both eyes and ears. These are associated with the chemical used to kill rats, named brodifacoum.

Synthetic cannabinoids, Cannabis, Illinois
Synthetic marijuana is also called “fake marijuana.” Image credit: AP

During the weekend, unfortunately, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that one person had died from using K2. Then, on Monday, another one followed him. Both of them were in their 20’s.

The Peoria County coroner’s office was investigating the death of a 22-year-old who died on Thursday. The person was being counted by the state health department when one of the fatalities resulting from the outbreak shocked them. The typical symptoms of the people who become ill after using K2 include internal bleeding, and blood coming out from their mouth, eyes, and ears.

According to the state health department, up to 56 people have been hospitalized in Illinois since March 25 – all of them presenting the symptoms above.

“While there have been cases of adverse effects from synthetic cannabinoids, we have not seen the severe bleeding on this scale. We continue to investigate cases as they come in to try to identify what product they may have used and where they obtained it. However, synthetic cannabinoids are unregulated and identifying a source or sources is difficult,” said Melany Arnold, a spokeswoman for the department.

Just a deathly alternative

Dr. Patrick Lank, a medical toxicologist at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, explained that being exposed to the chemical mentioned above, the brodifacoum, helps the human body to block its natural use of vitamin K – which eventually helps in the process of blood clotting.

Synthetic cannabinoids, Cannabis, Illinois
Some analysts claim that natural marijuana has not been linked to any death. Other people disagree. Image credit: Getty

However, somebody who has been exposed to it would need to ingest high doses of vitamin K for weeks, to manage the side effects.

The health department, to address this misconception, sent a memo to pharmacists advising them to stress to patients that over-the-counter vitamin K supplements are not potent enough to treat the side effects of synthetic marijuana.

A federal judge ordered on Monday to keep Masoud held until a hearing, which will take place on Thursday 6. Jad Allah and Mohammed went before the judge today, Tuesday 4. Still, no conclusion is public yet.

Source: The Chicago Tribune