The death of Billy Tucker, 18, of Greenwood after smoking “Scooby Snax” is tragic confirmation of the danger posed by synthetic marijuana.
His death also shows the difficulty that police and lawmakers have in keeping up with illicit drugmakers.
“Scooby Snax” is a legal product, a potpourri sold as aromatherapy.
The Legislature has outlawed previous versions, but illicit drugmakers tweaked the chemical makeup of the products to avoid prosecution.
All across the country officials are fighting the same battle.
In Colorado this fall, officials said synthetic marijuana was suspected in three deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is assisting in the investigation.
Synthetic marijuana typically is sold in brightly colored packages with innocuous names such as “Spice” and “Mr. Smiley.” “Scooby Snax,” for example, bears the image of the popular cartoon character.
The stores that sell the products usually refer to them as potpourri or incense, but in word of mouth and even online videos they are known as K2, or synthetic marijuana.
Sad to say, real marijuana, which is illegal is most states, probably is safer than the lethal products being marketed as synthetic marijuana.
Billy Tucker's father, Steve, hopes his son's death will drive home how dangerous K2 is.
Tucker had a couple of beers and a few hits of K2 at a party. He seemed coherent and normal, friends said. He may have had another hit before going to sleep at a friend's house in Waverly.
He never woke.
Sheriff's deputies found a pipe and a package of “Scooby Snax” in his pocket.
“We know there are other kids in the community doing it,” Steve Tucker said. “You can't sit on it, otherwise, we're going to have another funeral.”
Because the manufacturers of K2 have been so successful in evading criminal penalties, officials in some states are trying a different approach.
In New York, for example, the state attorney general resorted to filing civil lawsuits alleging that the head shops that sell the products are violating consumer protection laws requiring that products be labeled accurately.
That approach might offer some possibilities in Nebraska.
The Legislature next year could pass another law to make the current versions of K2 illegal, but the makers might just change the products again.
Civil lawsuits have the potential to lower the profit motive for head shops and other retailers to sell the products.
In the meantime, the message that K2 can kill needs to be repeated, again and again.