TAUNTON, Mass. (CN) - Two people died and a young woman is paraplegic because a smoke shop sold them "Potpourri" synthetic marijuana, the woman claims in a lawsuit in one of the oldest towns in the nation.
Ashley Rivera she was driving around with friends in December 2012 when they stopped at a smoke shop in Taunton, Mass., where the driver bought synthetic marijuana.
After smoking the drug in the car, he drove "erratically and at an excessive rate of speed," then blacked out and crashed into a tree, killing two of the six occupants, and paralyzing Rivera from the waist down, the complaint states. The other passengers, including the driver, were seriously injured.
"The real party at fault is the party who sold the synthetic marijuana. If he hadn't smoked the stuff, he would have been more rational. This accident would never have happened but not for the synthetic marijuana," Rivera's attorney Gerald Sousa told Courthouse News.
"They never say its synthetic marijuana," Sousa said of Stop N Save Discount Tobacco, the defendant smoke shop. "The kids refer to it as synthetic marijuana. "
Synthetic marijuana aka Spice aka K2 aka Potpourri is dried, shredded plant material that has been sprayed with technically legal mind-altering chemicals. Its effects are "unpredictable, and in some cases, severe or even life-threatening," according to drugabuse.gov.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed after deaths and injuries attributed to the drug, including some gruesome ones featuring bizarre and clearly insane behavior.
The intoxicating chemicals are quasi-legal because the manufacturers constantly change the formulas, leaving the Food and Drug Administration a step behind on listing the ingredients as prohibited.
Synthetic marijuana is marketed as "potpourri" or "incense," but "there is nothing marijuana about it other than how it appears," Sousa said.
"It's poison. They'd all be here today if he hadn't smoked this poison. "
Everyone involved in the crash was 18 to 22 years old, Sousa said.
He said the packaging is designed to entice kids to buy it.
"There's one package where a cartoon character is sitting on a toilet. This isn't potpourri you'd find in Bed Bath and Beyond. The store owners knew what they were doing and what the kids would use it for," he said.
Rivera claims that though the packaging is labeled "not for human consumption," the smoke shop "knew that its customers and consumers were not using it as 'potpourri,' but smoking it."
Synthetic marijuana has become the second most-popular drug among American teenagers, accounting for 11,406 emergency room visits in 2010, according to drugabuse.gov.
Taunton, pop. 56,000, 40 miles south of Boston, was founded in 1637 by members of the Plymouth Colony.
Named as defendants in Bristol County Court are Stop N Save Convenience New Bedford; and its owners, Misal Khan, Zubair Raza, Shahid Raza, and Shasta Amin.
Attorney Sousa's office is in South Easton, Mass.
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