“Spice,” the controversial herbal product that’s public enemy No. 1 in these discussions, has no redeeming value. Many Alabama cities have banned it, including Anniston, Oxford, Jacksonville and Heflin. The state Legislature was likely to ban the sale of herbal, marijuana-like products during its spring 2012 session.
On Friday, Gov. Robert Bentley pulled rank and, through executive order, banned the product statewide. Authorities are taking the stuff off of store shelves.
Critics of the nation’s so-called war on drugs have been quick to mock what they have described as hysteria over this product. Their observation that it’s hypocritical to ban Spice while allowing the continued sale of other products that affect behavior — alcohol, namely — is interesting, but irrelevant to the larger discussion.
Spice and its many variations, as a recent story in The Star illustrates, haven’t been scientifically linked to suicide. Right now, that theory is conjecture, strong as it may be. That the sons of several Alabama families, including two local ones, used Spice and later killed themselves isn’t proof — though it doesn’t make their stories any less tragic.
Today, the wiser approach for state officials should be a larger examination of depression and suicide in Alabama teens and young adults. The story of Bentley’s Spice ban will fade; that has merely been the drug version of the flavor of the month.
Instead, the story is simply this: What can be done to empower parents and educators with the up-to-date tools needed to identify and counsel those inclined to take their own lives?
What must be understood is that young people who want to get high won’t stop doing so because of an executive order. That’s irrelevant to them. Instead, they’ll turn — or return — to something else: prescription drugs found at home or bought on the street; real marijuana; alcohol; or stuff much worse and far more lethal.
That is the real story.
In that sense, be thankful that Spice raised the public consciousness about the modern-day use of drugs, legal or otherwise. The hysteria that’s swept the state over this herbal product can do one of two things: It can be a momentary blip in the drug/suicide discussions, or it can be a starting point for a more important — and more wide ranging — effort.
Today, it’s Spice. Tomorrow, it will be something else. We know that. What we must do is move closer to the day when we can more ably help people who feel they have no choice but to take their own lives. That should be the ultimate goal.