Their son, Chase, thought it was OK. He thought it was OK enough that he tried it several times — and on March 4 at just 16 years old, he drowned in a hot tub after smoking the substance.
The Burnetts, residents of Fayetteville, Ga., spoke at Dalton State College Monday night at a workshop attended by about 60 community members on the effects of synthetic marijuana and its rising use. The new Georgia law that makes it a crime to use or sell drugs that are similar in structure to already-outlawed drugs including synthetic marijuana, is named Chase’s law after their son. The Burnetts said the Dalton State visit was the first of what they expect to be several speaking appearances.
Yvette Burnett described Chase as someone who was exceptionally full of life. He loved everything he tried, she said — football, soccer, skiing, snowboarding, cooking. He was friendly at school, was the only student there who wore Heelys and was a smart kid.
“Our son bought into the lie that because it was legal, because it was on the market (it was OK); and because he was tempted by Satan it cost him his life,” David Burnett said. “I never in a million years would have thought it would happen to our son, but it did.”
Justin Goforth, president of the college’s Lambda Alpha Epsilon criminal justice organization, said the group organized the workshop, which included a question-and-answer session with local law enforcement and others, in an effort to educate the community.
The substance Chase used was called “Spice,” one of many forms of synthetic marijuana. Dr. Ujwal Reddy, the medical director at Highland Rivers Center, a mental health and rehabilitation facility in Dalton, said he’s seeing more patients being brought to the center because of the drug’s effects. They include paranoia and psychosis as well as increased blood pressure and heart rate. The latter two can rise to potentially deadly levels depending on the strength of the drug and the individual’s reaction to it, he said.
“In the last six months, every week we have seen at least one or two young kids come (in having used) synthetic marijuana,” Reddy said.
Dalton Police Department Det. Chris Tucker said officials are working with local convenience stores to remove the product from their shelves. The substance is still legal in Tennessee and is easy for users to buy there.
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