A 50-year-old man has been charged with selling a cannabis product that sickened dozens of people who used the substance, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh reported Friday.
Akram Abdel-Aziz has been charged with possession with intent to distribute a synthetic cannabinoid known as 5F-ADB, said Robert J. Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, in a news release.
The substance, known by the label “Black Magic” and other similar names, was sold as a liquid vaporizer product at vape shops in Onslow, Craven, Wilson, Cumberland, New Hanover and Pamlico counties.
The illicit product came to the attention of federal authorities following reports of seizures, loss of consciousness, hallucinations, paranoia and cardiac arrest by consumers who needed medical treatment, Higdon said.
Abdel-Aziz's arrest comes a little over a month after state health officials issued an advisory warning residents of a “potentially contaminated cannabidiol oil” that had caused a recent spike in hospital emergency room visits.
Along with being consumed as an oil, investigators reported that a similar product had been found in electronic cigarettes and vaporizing pens, officials with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said.
The state health authorities reported working with Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte to investigate more than 30 reports since December of consumers of the product who were treated in emergency departments across the state for serious symptoms that mirrored the symptoms caused by "Black Magic," including altered mental status, hallucinations, seizures, loss of consciousness and rapid heartbeat.