A Jackson, Tenn., school teacher reads an article in a Missouri newspaper that said the hallucinogenic drug LSD has found its way into the market on the backs of blue paper stars and cartoon tattoo transfers.
The Tennessee teacher passes the information along to a friend teaching in Florence. Soon, Rankin County, Jackson, Hinds County, Pearl and Clinton public schools prepare letters for parents and teachers warning of a potential danger here.
That's how Jackson police explain the origin of letters sent by school officials to Jackson area parents during the last two weeks.
Law enforcement and school officials said they have no evidence that the cheerful-looking, drug-laced paper patches have entered drug trade in the Jackson area.
"We have no knowledge of it," said Capt. William Griffin, chief of the Jackson Police Department's Narcotics Division. "But apparently they are blue star stick-ons, or some type of tattoo. Supposedly the glue on the backing of the stick-ons are laced with LSD. Exactly how it (the newspaper article) reached Florence, we don't know, or in exactly what form."
LSD -- known to chemists as lysergic acid diethylamide -- became a popular hallucinogenic drug in the 1960s in the form of tablets or in sugar cubes. The drug has no authorized medical use and is illegal in all forms.
Though drug enforcement authorities said LSD's popularity lessened during the 1970s, it still is often used nationwide.
Ron Johnson, an agent with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, said the blue stars and tattoos are a variation of what is known as "blotter acid" -- perforated paper squares laced with LSD that are either chewed or licked. But he said authorities have found no blotter form of the drug in the Jackson area. In Mississippi, none of the drug has been found in the form described in the school letters.
We've made arrests in north Mississippi and the coastal areas for blotter acid. Each one will have a certain design," he said.
Designs have ranged from Saturday Night Live's "Mr. Bill," to dancing bears, he said. He noted that the prevalence of blotter acid has seemingly increased in Mississippi this year.
"We seized approximately 1,600 dosage units this year. That's pretty high. Last year (during the entire year) we seized about 2,600 doses statewide. The stuff does exist, we have made seizures. But there's nothing to be alarmed about. The only new twist is that LSD has been around, only now, whoever is marketing it is putting in on cartoon transfers," Johnson said.
In letters distributed by the Jackson schools and other area districts, officials warn that children could unknowingly ingest the drug. The letters warn specifically against tattoo transfers with pictures of Disney cartoon characters and 5-inch square sheets of paper with small blue stars, which can be removed and placed in the mouth.
Although letters prepared by school officials are similar, they vary as to whether the drug is a possible hazard, is "readily available" or is "filtering down from north Mississippi."
The Rankin County School District two weeks ago distributed notices to school principals, who in turn forwarded the information to parents by letter, according to Ken Bramlett, assistant Rankin County superintendent of education. Jackson Public Schools followed suit last week.
"I think they (Jackson schools) got it from us," Bramlett said. "We sent it around to all the attendence center principals, and some of the teachers reproduced them."
Robert Fortenberry, Jackson Public Schools superintendent, said he authorized sending the letters to all district parents last week after the district's communication office heard of the possible influx of the drug. He said that no blotter acid has turned up at any Jackson public schools.
"I don't know how much apparent danger there is," Fortenberry said. "We just felt like we could not ignore if it was occurring. It was enough of a sufficiently gray area that I felt like I didn't want to take a chance."
Bramlett said no examples of the drug have turned up in Rankin County Public Schools, either.
"We haven't had a problem at all," Bramlett said. "But I think it's good we made people aware of it. We're trying to stay ahead of the game, if it's going to move our direction."
On Tuesday, Hinds County Public Schools principals also were advised of the potential problem, according to William Moss, Hinds County superintendent of education. He said principals will decide whether to send letters to parents at their own discretion.
"We want our parents to be aware of it, it's a new method as far as we know," Moss said. "If it had been determined this stuff was in the area, we would have gone the whole route."
Clinton Public Schools Superintendent Virgil Belue said he has prepared letters to send home to parents, but "will reserve judgment for a day or two" about distributing them. He said he wanted to wait until he has thoroughly checked the status of the drug's local availability with law enforcement agencies.
In Pearl, Douglas Arnold, acting superintendent, said his district plans to send letters to parents this week.
Although local and state law enforcement authorities said they have confiscated no blotter acid in Jackson this year, they aren't making predictions. Different forms of blotter acid have been used in other parts of the country for years.
One place is Columbus, Ohio, where talk of an "epidemic" of blotter acid last year spread so quickly that police still cringe at the mention of the incident.
"There was a small township policeman who ran across what he thought was blotter acid," said W.C. Hilton, a narcotics officer for the Columbus Police Department's Narcotics Bureau. "There was an enormous amount of publicity. It was an 'epidemic' for awhile."
"I'm afraid what it all boiled down to, was a hell of a lot of smoke and no fire. It was nothing new, but for that township officer, it was something big," Hilton said. "It turned out that what he found wasn't even acid (LSD)."
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