All posts by charlesthalacker

I kicked it with a band of ‘spice pirates’ outside of the public library

Spice, a synthetic cannabinoid recently banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is an epidemic here in Phoenix. The synthetic drug is sold as a potpourri and labelled as “not for human consumption,” until the five main chemicals used in spice were labelled Schedule I substances in July of  2012 “to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety,” according to the DEA. Up until that point, spice manufacturers had simply altered the formula to bypass regulation and remain on the  shelves of head shops.

The drug is designed to mimic the effects of marijuana, but bears a hue of negative side effects, ranging from paranoia, vomiting to seizures and hallucinations. It is also highly addictive and users may suffer from withdrawals when not using the drug.

Despite the federal ban on the designer drug, spice has a large presence within Phoenix’s impoverished community. I went with Phoenix Uncut’s source on the street, who has requested anonymity,  to see the face of Phoenix’s synthetic drug epidemic.

Spice pirate
“Got any spice?” A ‘spice pirate’ approaches the Phoenix Uncut team.

I arrived at the Phoenix Public Library at around 8 pm on a Tuesday night. The park bordering the library was occupied by dozens of people, many of them homeless, within an hour of the library’s close. The majority of the interactions I witnessed were trades. Drugs, blankets, food and clothing were the items in highest demand. One man arranged the sale of a brand new iPad for the suspiciously low price of $100.  If one thing’s for certain, it’s that the sale of that iPad could get the young man an excess of spice.

“There is usually a guy here who sells it,” Phoenix Uncut’s anonymous source said, “He rolls spice blunts in the park and sells them for $2.” When asked where the supply comes from, our source initially told us that he “didn’t want to give anyone’s secrets away,” but later divulged that he believes most of it comes from California. “Some of these people have friends who work in smoke shops out of state and they smuggle it down here to Phoenix.”

Some transients in the Phoenix area refer to the homeless drug users as ‘spice pirates.’ In an earlier interview, 24-year-old squatter Gonzo told Phoenix Uncut that he believes ‘spice pirates’ simply smoke spice and neglect their need for food, water and shelter. Spice quickly becomes their new sustenance and reason for living.

“All of these people have stories,” our anonymous source said, “but you won’t hear them … they come together and do drugs to forget.”