A new D.C. Department of Health campaign is warning young people about the dangers of fake weed or K2/Spice. The campaign tells young people that use of the synthetic marijuana will turn them into zombies.
The ads, which will appear in various mediums from print to broadcast and the web, shows various young people staged to look like frightening Zombies with messages like, "Going to the Prom? Don't masquerade as a Zombie.”
District officials say the use of synthetic marijuana, especially among young people, is becoming an increasingly serious issue. These synthetic drugs, such as Scooby Snax, are marketed directly to youth and may be purchased in a local convenience store as potpourri or incense.
The D.C. Prevention Center reports that fake weed use among youth has increased significantly since 2008. The average age of a fake weed user in DC is 13 and a half years old.
Synthetic marijuana is made of shredded plant material and extremely harmful chemical additives that can cause death.
Rarzeke Austin says the fun packaging and fruity flavors is what first got him to try the products. He says it was a frightening experience he never wants to repeat.
"I was like I thought I was about to die," Austin says. "It was like my body was moving by itself, but I couldn't tell myself what to do; not to sit down or anything. I was so scared."
On Thursday afternoon, Austin joined dozens of other teens from the D.C. Prevention Program to take a stand against fake weed at the Health Department's Campaign Kickoff at Marshall Heights Community Development Organization.
Phil Pannell, who helped lead the charge to get K2 out of local stores, says it's a product that's killing young people, especially in Wards 7 and 8 where they are mostly sold.
"It is just so accessible, and what makes this so insidious is the way that it is marketed,” he says. “This is not a play thing. This is a product of death."
Leaders say the campaign also aims to put businesses that sell the products on notice that they can't get away with it.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says, "We want to send the message out to businesses that may engage in selling this product, this illegal product, that they're going be subject to the full weight of the law in doing this."
The D.C. Council banned synthetic marijuana last December.