Rat poison-laced 'spice' leads to one death, one illness in Hillsborough Co.

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The Hillsborough Department of Health says they have found two cases of users of synthetic marijuana falling sick to doses that are laced with rat poison.

"This appears to be an additional level of risk," said the manager for the epidemiology program at the Dept. of Health, Michael Wiese.

The health department believes it led to the death of 37-year-old Carlos Pimentel, of Tampa.

Another Hillsborough resident got severely ill, bleeding uncontrollably.

"The information we are getting from the larger investigation nationally, is that it is a high dose of this rat poison that is in these synthetic marijuana products," said Wiese.

Drugs like synthetic marijuana, also called spice, are made illegal based on their chemical makeup.

Because producers of these drugs keep changing their formulations, lawmakers are having a hard time keeping up.

Because each new formulation is technically legal until its chemical makeup is analyzed by law enforcement, it can be sold in some convenience stores, and online as incense.

"It is really tough, there is no quality control with a product like this," said Tampa Police spokesman Steve Hegarty. "You never know what they are going to put into it."

Local law enforcement is trying. 

In 2017, Hillsborough deputies arrested fifty people and seized $1.7 million worth of synthetic marijuana. 

Tampa Police did a raid in 2016 that yielded $20,000 packages of it, worth a half-million dollars on the street.

"We got a lot of the product off the street," said Hegarty. "We made some progress there. It was still very difficult to figure out who was in charge of it because somebody owned the warehouse, but somebody was using the warehouse. So it is a bit of a cat and mouse game."

It is unclear as to where this batch is coming from.

The department of health is working with the CDC to find more cases.