YORK, Pa. -- Doctor Philip Moore used to see synthetic marijuana overdoses "one to two times per week." Now, the Pinnacle Health physician in Harrisburg sees them up to five times per day.
"I don't know if it's a new chemical," he said, "but people are getting more sick now than ever before."
Synthetic marijuana has become one of Central Pennsylvania's top health problems; "It's a crisis. An epidemic like I've never seen before," says Andy Sullivan, President of Mazzetti & Sullivan drug rehab and counseling center in Harrisburg. The drug hits on the same spots in the brain as regular marijuana, Dr. Moore says, but is "100 times more potent."
York City police reported at least nine known cases of synthetic marijuana overdoses in the last two weeks. This weekend, they are trying to be proactive to limit its use and spread. Since Thursday, the York PD has visited 58 convenience stores throughout the city, offering a one-time amnesty deal for stores who sell to turn in their supply.
Police officers visited Mom & Pop's Shopette in York on Thursday. They left a letter with information about the drug with store worker Jay Richards, and posted a sign on the outside door reading, "THIS YORK CITY BUSINESS DOES NOT SELL CANNABIS SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA."
"They said they can pick it up or we can turn in and there won't be criminal charges," Richards said. "If they find out we're doing something illegal, they'll take action after that."
York Police told FOX43 there is no set end date for the amnesty period. "We want to let it play out, see how successful it is," Lt. Troy Bankert said.
"We don't want this to turn into the heroin problem," Bankert added. "We don't want people dying on this."
As of Friday afternoon, no businesses had turned over any synthetic marijuana supply, although Bankert admitted the York PD has "leads on certain spots."