Tuesday, November 8, 2011  
By Don Lehman
The Post Star

A 15-year-old Whitehall girl was treated at Glens Falls Hospital last week for a reaction she had after smoking herbal incense, the latest in a string of problems police and emergency responders have experienced with the substance in recent months.

A 16-year-old boy, Matthew Pomainville of Whitehall, was charged with the misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly providing incense to two teens, Whitehall Police Patrolman Tim Hardy said. Pomainville was released, pending prosecution in Whitehall Village Court.

The case came just days after the latest burglary attempt at a store in the area that sells herbal incense.

Lou’s Tobacco on Broadway in Fort Edward was victimized twice in two nights in late October when two would-be thieves tried to break into the store, Fort Edward Police Chief Walt Sandford said. Surveillance cameras helped police to make two arrests, he said.

Hardy said the girl suffered convulsions Nov. 2 after smoking the substance. He said he believed she had been released from the hospital.

Whitehall Police Chief Matthew Dickinson said the medical call for the teens smoking salvia, a plant used as a type of incense, was the first police in Whitehall have seen. But authorities elsewhere around the region have reported numerous medical calls for incense users.

“This is an issue that’s flooding ER’s (emergency rooms) everywhere,” Sandford said.

Known by a variety of street names like “Posh” or brand names like Wicked X, the substance often causes hallucinations, paranoia and other severe mental and physical problems for users. Users sometimes hurt themselves, and Sandford said many say they feel like they are going to die.

Even though the incense packages all indicate the material is not meant for human consumption, Sandford said it’s being marketed for users to ingest and seek a high. It is sold at many smoke shops and convenience stores, he pointed out.

“There’s not a whole lot we can do about it,” Dickinson said.

Federal laws have been enacted to ban chemicals used in herbal incense, but manufacturers have simply changed the chemical compounds slightly so they do not violate the law.

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said he was told recently that the two stores in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward combine to sell $2,500 worth of herbal incense a week. Packages typically sell for $30 to $50.

The products have been frequent targets for thieves, with numerous stores in Glens Falls, Queensbury and Fort Edward burglarized in recent months by thieves stealing herbal incense.

Two teens tried to get into Lou’s Tobacco the nights of Oct. 25 and 26, vandalizing doors and surveillance cameras but failing to get inside, Sandford said.

A surveillance camera in the rear of the building, which one of the teens damaged, recorded a good image of one of the teens, who was hooded and wearing a bandanna over his face. Fort Edward Police patrolmen Josh Mears and Josh Fish charged Chaz Alger, 17, of Fort Edward, with attempted burglary after they found him later on the night of the 26th, wearing the same clothes the attempted burglar was wearing in the video, Sandford said.

He was charged with attempted third-degree burglary, a felony, and misdemeanor criminal mischief, police said. A 15-year-old Fort Edward boy was also charged, and will be prosecuted as a juvenile because he is under 16.