If you are a parent, guardian, a concerned grandparent, aunt or uncle of a teenager or perhaps younger child, then you probably want to keep reading this story all the way to the end. Be forewarned it isn’t good news, but you have probably already figured that out.
If you see your teenager vaping or find their vaping device, they might just be inhaling an aerosol form of nicotine. Then again, they may also be inhaling an aerosol form of a highly potent version of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that makes people high.
The problem is that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference by the look of the cartridge or the smell it gives off while vaped.
Don’t feel bad. The police can’t tell the difference either from just looking at it or smelling it.
“When it is smoked through vape, you don’t smell it. It doesn’t put off a marijuana odor. The only way we are going to know if it is marijuana vape, is if we field test it, if the dog hits on it, or if the student is obviously under the influence,” noted Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird.
Keep reading parents. There is more bad news.
Common marijuana vapes, like some seized by Williamsburg police during a raid a couple of weeks ago are 85 – 90 percent pure THC.
“Despite what the marijuana culture wants to say, it is toxic. It can send you to the ER with psychotic episodes and severe panic attacks. ER doctors don’t describe it as an overdose, but they do describe it as cannabis toxicity. It can make you very sick, especially our younger high school age kids,” Bird said.
“We intercepted videos on social media of local juveniles here. We are trying to identify them. The first video is of a female, who uses it and immediately passes out. That is how potent it is, especially for first time users.”
In the process of making some recent marijuana arrests, Williamsburg police started looking at social media sites, and made a disturbing find, Bird said.
“We learned that younger individuals, high school age, are trafficking marijuana vapes and marijuana wax through social media,” Bird said. “Through the course of the investigation, we have learned that these marijuana vapes are in our schools.”
Still not quite done with the bad news.
In addition to marijuana vapes, police are also frequently seizing marijuana wax when making traffic stops and so forth.
Marijuana wax looks like Chapstick in a round Chapstick-like container. It even comes in flavors. Problem is it is actually more potent than standard marijuana vapes, Bird warned.
The marijuana wax can be absorbed through the skin, or melted down and vaped. There are several ways to use it.
“This stuff is about six to eight times more potent than an actual marijuana joint. When you smoke it in a vape it is absorbed directly into the blood system. It is an instantaneous high,” Bird warned.
There is still a little more bad news.
“It would be very easy to take liquid fentanyl and inject in one of those cartridges. Then your child could end up dead because they are buying something off the street that they think is marijuana but is laced with fentanyl. We know that Corbin (police) have recently seized some marijuana that was laced with fentanyl. We know it is here,” Bird said.
Good news/bad news
Here is both a little bad news and a little good news for parents.
The bad news is that our local schools are definitely dealing with a vaping problem.
Corbin Independent Schools recently held a series of forums to make students and adults aware of the dangers of vaping.
On March 6, Williamsburg schools put out the following statement on their Facebook page.
“Parents … there is a public health issue that we all need to work together to solve. Nationwide the numbers of teens that are engaging in vaping has skyrocketed. The stats are alarming and our community is not immune. It’s not healthy for our kids or for anyone else for that matter…” the post reads in part.
“Be aware – ask questions – be observant. Our district along with all others in our area are working hard to keep our kids safe, but it’s going to take all of us working together to snuff this out. There’s a lot of research out there on the dangers of vaping. Educate yourself.”
During recent weeks, Williamsburg Police Department School Resource Officer Troy Sharp has seized several vapes from students at the school. All are being field-tested, Bird said.
Here is a little bit of good news, but don’t get too excited.
So far, Williamsburg police haven’t found any marijuana vapes yet at the schools.
“I didn’t realize how popular vaping is in our schools just with nicotine. I go up to the city school and they have several of them they have seized from students. Whitley County is the same way and Corbin is the same way. It is something we are seeing a growing number of,” Bird said.
“The information we have gotten through our arrests is that this marijuana vape is in the schools. We haven’t actually seized any marijuana vape from a student at school, but we are seizing it like crazy on the street.”
How are the marijuana vapes getting here?
“These things are sold in states that have legalized marijuana. Now that stuff is filtering into Kentucky,” Bird said.
Bird said he isn’t attacking the marijuana industry, and isn’t that concerned with what the adults choose to do.
“If you think it is healthy for you wear it out. I don’t care, but it concerns me that it is in our schools,” Bird added. “A lot of parents think it is safe for their kids to vape. They need to educate themselves on it because there are a lot of health risks involved with vaping period. What they really need to educate themselves on is the fact that their child could very easily take one of those cartridges, put it in a vape, and be smoking marijuana and they wouldn’t even know it.”