Should Oregon outlaw legal substance with pot-like effects?

Should Oregon outlaw legal substance with pot-like effects? »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - Spice is a legal substance sold as incense but commonly used as a drug to get high.

But it's also reponsible for untold sickness and even deaths.

Nationwide, more than 500 people have phoned poison centers about the drug this year, up from just 12 calls last year.

KVAL News spoke with a father of an 18 year old who is using Spice. He spoke to KVAL News on condition of anonymity but holds a position of respect in the Lane County community that makes him a credible source.

He said Spice has already torn this family apart.

"Certainly there is the self-doubt of where did I go wrong? How did I fail this kid?" he said. "And all sorts of feelings of regret and self-doubt."

He said the substance turned his 18-year-old son into an angry drug abuser.

And right now anybody of any age can walk right in to a smoke shop and buy it.

"A kid under 18 can't buy tobacco. People under 21 can't buy alcohol," the concerned father told KVAL News, "but you can walk in at any age and buy this and get an enormous high from it."

He is ready to change that.

"Outlawed. Completely outlawed as far as I'm concerned," he said.

The substance is already banned in most European countries and in six U.S. states. Four others are considering bans.

But it's still legal here in Oregon.

Substance abuse expert Tom Favreau at the University of Oregon said Oregon needs to take legislative action soon.

"People are becoming much more aware of it and it's going to become an issue," he said. "The ban could be anything from possession to manufacturing to distribution or use. But to put some legislation into place would be a really good start."

Does the substance have any long-term side effects?

"We don't know at this point," Favreau said. "I've been doing some research on the matter. I haven't found anything conclusive at this point. It's still relatively new."

So new, most police departments have never heard of it. And once they find out that someone is on it, there's nothing they can do about it because it is legal.

That leaves parents feeling helpless.    

"There isn't going to be anything we do other than to clean up the mess and deal with the aftermath," the KVAL News source lamented.