BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- Police are testing a product for chemicals after eight people suffered severe medical effects.
Police Chief Matt Doering says a synthetic incense called "Crazy Clown" was obtained by eight people from Mary Jane's Emporium in Brunswick on Thursday afternoon.
The owner, Jason LaRoche tells Action News he had just received a new shipment and put the product on store shelves that morning.
The 911 calls came from three different homes in Glynn County over a period of 12 hours Thursday night and Friday morning, including a birthday party at a home on Chancey Circle where five people, including a 16-year-old girl, suffered severe violent effects moments after inhaling the substance.
"Three girls were foaming out the mouth. One was rolling around on the ground and my nephew couldn't walk," said Jason Hedegard, who heard the cries for help from his home down the street.
His nephew, Matthew Hedegard, 24, was one of those rushed to the hospital.
"I didn't know it was spice. I don't know what chemicals were in it. I took it and then I puked, and then I woke up in the hospital," Matthew told Action News just moments after returning home.
Hedegard tells Action News he doesn't remember anything, but doctors told him he was five minutes away from losing his life when paramedics arrived.
"They held me down, and I didn't know what they were doing. I don't remember anything after that."
Chief Matt Doering says all eight users, ages 16 to 26, were either violent toward police and paramedics, or unable to control themselves. Three remained in the ICU Thursday afternoon.
"The thing is we don't know if what we have is illegal or not," said Doering.
Police are now testing Crazy Clown to see what chemicals it contains and will compare it with a list of banned substances, but he says manufacturers and distributors may be skirting state and federal laws by altering ingredients to stay one step ahead of them.
"For it to be taken off store shelves, it has to have certain illegal compounds in it. That's what makes it hard for us. The laws can't keep up with how quickly the makers of these drugs can alter them and get around it."
The Centers for Disease Control is now investigating, concerned about the effect of Crazy Clown on other users across the country.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, also issued a warning Friday night saying the DPH is working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to remove "Crazy Clown" as well as "Herbal Madness Incense" from store shelves. She says the products are typically sold at convenience and tobacco stores and may display a clown or "joker face" with the character's tongue out and/or "5X" in product labeling.
The lab tests are currently underway, and Doering expects to have them on Monday, which will determine if any charges will be filed.
LaRoche says he has been selling Crazy Clown for two years and has never received a complaint. He says the packages are marked "not for human consumption" and that he is complying with the investigation. He believes the product is legal.
Congressman Jack Kingston tells Action News that as a result of this case and other synthetic drug investigations across Georgia, he plans to push for more reforms in the next session.