Spice conference convenes as overdoses in Anchorage persist

Medical emergencies connected with synthetic cannabinoids remain stubbornly high in Anchorage — 6 to 8 percent of daily calls for hospital transport, according to Fire Department officials.

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Thursday morning, city officials, first responders, and social service providers are coming together for two days of meetings as part of a Municipal Synthetic Cannabinoid Working Group.

Spice is commercially sold in different packaging, typically as a loose packet of herbs treated with chemicals. (Courtesy photo - US Marine Corps)
Though not as high as this past fall, calls for medical emergencies related to Spice have persisted this (Courtesy photo – US Marine Corps)

“We thought it was really important to set time aside to bring all those stakeholders from the community together to have a dialogue about the current situation, evaluate what’s been effective, and where we go from here,” said Chris Tolley, chief of the Anchorage Police Department, who organized a similar conference on Spice a few years ago when he worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency in Alaska.

According to Tolley, the level of Spice-related calls has gone down from crisis levels earlier this fall, but it’s unclear if that’s due to better law-enforcement tools, educational efforts, or just colder weather.

Only the first half of Thursday’s meeting is open to the public. Tolley says that is because attendees will be discussing open legal cases, and want to protect the privacy of victims.