Fifteen people in downtown’s skid row were

hospitalized this weekend after consuming a tainted form of synthetic marijuana

known as Spice, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said in remarks reported

today.

Thankfully, Beck said in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times,

nobody died, even though most were rushed to the hospital after collapsing on

the sidewalk and streets. The first incidents were reported Friday afternoon,

he said.

Homeless advocates, shelter operators and police officers told The Times

that the weekend’s episode isn’t the first time this year that ambulances

have rolled up to homeless encampments and found poisoned spice users.

“They are cutting it with something lethal,”the Rev. Andy Bales, who

runs the Union Rescue Mission, told The Times. “We’ve seen violence and

convulsions…. I saw a guy rolling into the street on Friday”

Spice is made by spraying psychoactive chemicals onto plant matter and

then smoking or eating it.

Side effects include racing heartbeat, nausea and sometimes seizures.

The DEA has identified 400 new designer drugs, mostly with origins in

rogue labs in China.

“These are extremely dangerous drugs, despite being falsely marketed to

youth as being a ‘safe’ alternative and having innocent names like ‘spice’

and ‘K2,’” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker has said. “The often unknown and

constantly changing chemicals in these drugs can have unpredictable and

devastating effects on users”

Even for skid row, the rash of overdoses sparked anxiety. HazMat crews

checked the area to make sure there was not a larger public safety threat

Friday night, and some streets were closed