CLEARWATER — A 19-year-old Safety Harbor man drowned early Sunday in a Kapok Park creek after police said he began acting strangely while smoking a synthetic drug called "K2."
Although it had not been determined Sunday just how much of a role the substance played in the teen's death, police said he had bought it legally from a neighborhood gas station — underscoring concern that attempts to ban the fake drug's ingredients were widely being circumvented.
The young man, Logan Matthew Kushner, and a friend were smoking around 2:30 a.m. when Kushner jumped into the creek at 2950 Glen Oak Ave. N, police said.
The friend, whom police did not name, persuaded Kushner to get out of the water and told him they needed to leave. But when Kushner opted to stay, the friend left him behind at the park.
Later, after a number of calls to Kushner's phone went unanswered, Kushner's friends went to the creek and found him unresponsive in the water, police said. He was pronounced dead at Mease Countryside Hospital.
Kushner had studied at Palm Harbor University High School and had played for its football team, the Hurricanes.
A former teacher remembered him as a popular kid with a good heart.
"He was upbeat. He always had a smile," said Andrea Weaver, 40, Kushner's 10th grade English teacher.
Kushner had a female classmate who had trouble walking, Weaver remembered. Every day, Kushner would lead her into the classroom.
On Sunday, friends formed a Facebook page, Logan Kushner Candle Light Special, and invited the public to participate in a vigil at 8 p.m. today at the park.
Police did not say what caused Kushner to drown or whether he was under the influence of any other substance. A toxicology report has yet to be completed.
Branded as incense but also called "fake weed," K2 and similar substances are synthetic cannabinoids much more powerful than marijuana, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Sold by the gram in brightly colored packets, the substances, when smoked, could induce giddiness and hallucinations.
Users also experienced paranoia, agitation and anxiety; high blood pressure and heart rate; and panic attacks and seizures.
Bad reactions caused spikes nationwide in calls to poison control hotlines and trips to emergency rooms, but no deaths caused by overdose have been reported, DEA records show.
The fake drugs were sold online and in drug paraphernalia shops and convenience stores before the DEA banned the use and sale of their key ingredients in March.
But shortly after the DEA announced its ban, some of the manufacturers started advertising other fake-pot products. Many of them are sold online.
The Florida Legislature also approved a ban on certain compounds in the synthetics that took effect in July. As of last fall, at least 40 states had passed similar bans.
Even so, authorities on both sides of Tampa Bay said variants of the fake drugs targeted by the ban, but using legal ingredients, have surfaced locally.
Indeed, one gas station checked Sunday near Clearwater was selling a substance called Scooby Snax Potpourri.
Despite its name, the product warned it was not meant for human consumption.
The company's website asserted that the product does not contain any of the compounds banned under synthetic cannabinoids legislation.
Times staff writers Stephanie Wang and Will Hobson and photographer Joseph Garnett Jr. contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.