Highs & Lows: Part One

By KBJR News 1

February 12, 2013 Updated Feb 12, 2013 at 8:15 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)-- Eighteen states and Washington D.C. have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Patients, and some doctors claim the therapeutic effects of consuming cannabis help people struggling with chemotherapy, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease, and many other medical issues.

Now, with the rise of synthetic marijuana use, especially here in Duluth over the past two years, people are saying smoking synthetics is providing the same therapeutic, medicinal effect.

The line at Last Place on Earth on a cold, blustery Saturday morning is a line with plenty of stories.

"I try to make as little trips as possible."

Andrew Moe doesn't like the line that some people call home.

"It's survival for me right now," said Moe, at Last Place on Earth. "I just want to live."

He says his story is one of life and death.

"It's an auto-immune digestive disorder," Moe said. "My digestive system attacks itself; it thinks something is going on."

For years, Moe has struggled with Crone's Disease.

"It causes a lot of discomfort and lots of nausea. I'm barely able to eat sometimes."

He claims that smoking synthetic marijuana is providing him another chance at life, creating a therapeutic effect.

"This product is helping me eat where as a lot of things have not."

He's not the only one.

"When I smoke the incense, it does relax me."

Keith Cameron has Parkinson's disease.

"Tremors create a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression, just characteristics of the disease so I tried it and I found out it was beneficial," Cameron said, at his home in downtown Duluth.

He says smoking incense calms the tremors, boosting his quality of life.

"I find it rounds out my attitude," said Cameron.

Doctors say that consumers of incense have a skewed perspective when it comes to this issue.

St. Luke's Emergency Physician Dr. Nick Van Deelen is confident any medicinal benefits people feel they're experiencing from consuming incense can be explained in simple terms.

"Just like any addictive subsistence, if you have an addiction to it and you don't take it you feel poorly, if you take it, you feel better," Dr. Van Deelen said. "The thing to remember is that these are synthetic compounds that are highly addictive."

He says that while the chemical compound in synthetics does react with the cannabanoid receptor in the brain, creating a similar euphoria to marijuana, the two substances are worlds apart.

"They are more structurally similar to amphetamine, like methamphetamine and that's where a lot of the toxicity arises from."

The St. Luke's emergency room sees issues with incense daily.

"They're seizing; they have unstable vital signs that are very unsafe for them where we actually have to actively intervene and sedate them heavily and put on a ventilator and admit to the ICU unit," said Van Deelen.

And even knowing what doctors say about medicinal incense, stories of miracles and medicine are continually spoken of at 120 East Superior Street.

"Me standing here right now is a miracle," said Moe.

Zach Vavricka

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