Teen's family sues synthetic pot maker after his death

Alleged synthetic pot distributor sued in teen’s death

The parents of a Fayette County teen who died after smoking synthetic marijuana have filed a wrongful death suit against a Cobb County man alleged to be the drug’s distributor.

It is believed to be the first such suit against a manufacturer or distributor of the drug, commonly known as K2 or Spice, according to Kristofer R. Schleicher, attorney for David and Yvette Burnett. An open package of “Mojo Diamond Extreme 100X Potpourri” — a brand name for synthetic pot — was found next to the hot tub where 16-year-old Chase Burnett drowned March 4.

“Everyone who has played a part in this and many other tragedies should be held responsible — the drug dealers who import deadly chemicals and spray them on herbs, the distributors who place them in convenience stores, the managers and owners of the stores who sell these drugs to minors, and the national chains and franchisers who until recently allowed these drugs to be sold in their franchises,” according to a statement from Schleicher on behalf of his clients. “It has been all about the money.”

The suit alleges that Peyton Palaio, 25, or an unnamed associate working for one of his companies, Lunar Labs and WG Distribution, sold the Mojo Diamond to the Peachtree City convenience store where Chase purchased the drug.

Schleicher said Palaio is a “well-known manufacturer and distributor” who “previously made and sold bath salts, another deadly synthetic drug.” Public records reveal the Walton High School graduate was arrested in December 2008 for heroin possession. According to the Atlanta police incident report, Palaio asked the arresting officer if he could “still shoot up” before he was taken to jail.

But Palaio’s lawyer said his client has “absolutely no connection” to the quasi-legal product.

“I don’t understand why my client was sued,” said attorney Andrew Koplan, who predicted the suit would be dismissed. “They’ve sued the wrong person.”

Koplan said Palaio didn’t even know what Mojo Extreme was when notified of the complaint against him.

Spice, made of plant material and sprayed with chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was briefly outlawed in April after Gov. Nathan Deal signed Chase’s Law, named after Burnett. Chemists employed by the distributors subsequently found a way around the ban by changing the drug’s molecular structure, briefly returning it to the shelves, authorities have said.

In early June, the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy issued an emergency ruling classifying those altered compounds as Schedule I substances. The Georgia Controlled Substances Act grants law enforcement the authority to seize the product, popularly known as K2 or Spice, from merchants, though it does not allow for arrests or criminal prosecution.

“The family is working with legislators and law enforcement to develop additional state and federal legislation that will stop the sale of dangerous synthetic marijuana,” according to the statement from the Burnetts.

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