Patricia Lucas wants to keep drugs out of Barre. She works at the Return House, a substance-free facility for young men on furlough from prison.
Patricia Lucas: There's a lot of regulations and stipulations they have to follow.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Like no drugs?
Lucas: No drugs, no alcohol.
But clients have been using drugs-- only these were legal, synthetic cannabinoids known as K2 or Spice. At least they were legal until a little more than a month ago. That's when Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Vt. Health Department, and Public Safety banned K2 and five other designer drugs, like bath salts.
K2 is manufactured. It's dried herbs sprayed with chemicals. It gives a feeling similar to marijuana. It's sold as a potpourri, but people are smoking it and it could have dangerous consequences.
"We were seeing young men becoming physically ill, sick to their stomach, vomiting. And I've read where people have committed suicide, people have had uncontrollable blood pressure," Lucas said. "I just felt that once it was banned it would finally be over with and off the shelves," she said.
But that hasn't been the case. Clients at the halfway house are still finding it. And so did WCAX News.
At the Fired Up Smoke Shop in South Barre the synthetic cannabinoid comes in a variety of flavors.
Our undercover video captured the clerk asking Reporter Gina Bullard if she had ever tried any of it.
Bullard: No, have you?
Clerk: Yeah, once. It's just like a replacement for other things that people might get into.
We also found a shopper whose brother tried it.
Shopper: I was a little scared, so I didn't try it. He's had a couple bad headaches and vomiting and not due to flu bug or anything, so I don't know if it's directed towards that or not.
Clerk: It could be.
Clerk: People on like probation or the military-- they just want it.
Bullard: Will this show up on a drug test?
Clerk: No, unless they test for it specifically. But they can't test for something they don't know.
Barre Town Police were surprised when we showed them what we found. Chief Michael Stevens was also surprised that K2 had been banned in Vermont. He had no idea.
Bullard: Did you know it was banned?
Chief Michael Stevens: I did not.
Bullard: Why do you think that is?
Stevens: Umm, I think a lot of information was sent out for the bath salts.
Bath salts were the main focus of the ban. The Shumlin Administration pushed the new law following a WCAX News report this summer.
"I think we have an education piece that's lacking here," said Capt. Glen Hall of the Vt. Drug Task Force.
The Public Safety Department admits there's some confusion about who's responsible for getting the word out about the ban on designer drugs. The Health Department says it's working on an informational campaign. Hall says it's likely Fired Up had no idea it was selling K2 illegally.
"It is possible there are stores in Vermont that still have it on their shelves and may not be aware of the ban," Hall said.
That lack of knowledge poses a challenge for Patricia Lucas as she tries to keep her clients clean.
"I'm worried it will lead to deaths," she said.
We did reach out to the owner of Fired Up multiple times with no luck getting a hold of him. Wednesday, we stopped by the shop again, but it was closed because he was out sick. We visited another store in Barre City. And the owner there told us he no longer sells K2. He was aware that it been banned.
So it sounds like in some cases there's a lack of awareness about this ban.
The Health Department says it shares the responsibility with Public Safety in spreading the word. It has a new fact sheet about all the newly banned drugs, but that fact sheet still has not been sent out yet.
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:43 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:43:32 GMT
Is the marketing behind Electronic Cigarettes aimed at kids?New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) says the industry's trendy packaging and flavors like bubble gum and cotton candy aren't foolingMore >>
Schumer is co-sponsoring a Senate bill that would ban e-cigarette marketing aimed at kids.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:42 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:42:02 GMT
Senator Bernie Sanders is among a group of Senators set to hold an "all-nighter" to call attention to climate Change.Members of the so-called Senate Climate Action Task Force -- nearly two dozen in allMore >>
Senator Bernie Sanders is among a group of Senators set to hold an "all-nighter" to call attention to climate Change.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:40 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:40:46 GMT
A Chimney fire is the likely cause of a blaze that destroyed a home in St. Albans Town.The owner of the home on Pike Drive called for help a little after 9:30 a.m. Sunday. When firefighters arrived theyMore >>
A Chimney fire is the likely cause of a blaze that destroyed a home in St. Albans Town.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:39 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:39:29 GMT
Flags were flying on the Statehouse steps Sunday afternoon as more than 500 people gathered for the Gun Owners of Vermont Rally."Vermonters -- not just hunting Vermonters who happen to have firearms forMore >>
A trio of gun control measures may have gotten the green light from Burlington voters on Town Meeting Day, but the charter changes face strong opposition across the state, and a possible uphill battle at the Statehouse.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:38 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:38:52 GMT
Jazz fingers, dance moves -- and plenty of passion. The Urban Reach Dance Convention is giving aspiring dancers the chance to learn from some of the music industry's most acclaimed teachers, who have workedMore >>
Aspiring dancers hit the floor this weekend at the 8th annual Urban Reach Dance Convention.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 6:08 PM EDT2014-03-09 22:08:59 GMT
This morning, Channel 3 has learned there will NOT be a bus strike Monday morning in Chittenden County. CCTA officials told us in a statement that after 19 hours of negotiations that went into the morningMore >>
Sunday morning CCTA officials announced that after a marathon negotiation session they delivered a complete contract proposal to the union.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 2:52 PM EDT2014-03-09 18:52:05 GMT
Governor Peter Shumlin was in Rhode Island over the weekend. His office says the Governor was at Brown University in Providence taking part in a forum with the Rhode Island Governor. He is expected toMore >>
Governor Peter Shumlin was in Rhode Island over the weekend.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 2:10 PM EDT2014-03-09 18:10:31 GMT
ANNOUNCER: FROM VERMONT'S MOST TRUSTED SOURCE, WCAX BRINGS YOU YOUR NEWSMAKERS, YOUR NEIGHBORS, THIS IS "YOU CAN QUOTE ME". >> HELLO, WELCOME TO "YOU CAN QUOTE ME", I'M KYLE MIDURA, TODAY WE TALK ABOUTMore >>
Stephen Dale, the executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association joins Kyle Midura to discuss education in Vermont.More >>