BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- The Wisconsin Drug Threat Assessment is warning law enforcement agencies in northeast Wisconsin after three people died consuming synthetic marijuana, and more than 100 others are hospitalized with serious, internal bleeding.
Officials traced the fake weed (popular at gas stations and smoke shops) back to Chicago. About 10 of those affected tested positive for rat poison.
States affected include both Wisconsin and Illinois, and the CDC said cases are increasing by the day. All cases include unexplained, internal bleeding.
Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, Cook County medical examiner, said, "They're bleeding in their digestive tract, sometimes in the brain."
Director of the Brown County Drug Task Force Lt. Kevin Kinnard is familiar with the warning and what synthetic marijuana is doing in the Green Bay area.
"You can buy K2 in Brown County. There's a lot of smoke shops selling it. There's a lot of smoke shops selling CBD, but at the end of the day, you don't know what you're buying," he said.
The legality of synthetic marijuana is constantly changing, and the people who make it are constantly adjusting their formulas to keep it on shelves legally.
Gray-TV affiliate WBAY checked out a half-dozen smoke shops in Green Bay Thursday and found the hot item right now cannabidiol. Marketed as "CBD": it can be vaped or dabbed, sold as a wax or crystal. Shops provide literature about how pharmacists engineered the drug from hemp plants. But Kinnard said unless it comes down as an order from a doctor fulfilled by a licensed pharmacy, the drug isn't safe.
"What we're seeing in Brown County is cases of people using way too much of it and then they're presented with a psychotic episode," he said.
"Synthetic cannabinoids can cause hallucinations, seizures, breathing problems, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure," Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti told reporters amid the fake weed death scare.
"Typically what we're seeing is teens to early twenties. Wisconsin law says it has to be basically in a prescription from a doctor and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist," said Kinnard. "At the end of the day, the drug trade is about money. It's not about product, it's about making money, and they're probably not looking out for the well being of the people that they're selling it to."