‘Tall Cop’ says ‘gateway’ drugs can be found on store shelves

“You can’t stop what you don’t know,” is Jermaine Galloway’s motto and tagline.

Galloway, a towering 6-foot-9 former collegiate basketball player, worked in Idaho law enforcement for 18 years and currently resides in Texas. He has extensive experience in alcohol and drug compliance and enforcement, and currently devotes most of his time educating professionals and communities throughout the U.S. on prevention of drug and alcohol abuse.

At the Atrium Stanly Family Health Education Center, “Tall Cop,” as Galloway is known to many, spoke Monday evening to participants in the Stanly County Schools’ Community Health Fair about national and local trends that often lure young people into substance abuse.

“It’s important to take note of this information now,” he said, noting that most studies in this field are two to three years behind current trends when released.

Jermaine Galloway

In a fast-moving slide presentation, Galloway illustrated and explained numerous ways that distributors of some seemingly-innocuous products are able to legally sell items that often contain cannabis and cannabis derivatives, synthetic hallucinogens, alcohol and caffeine.

“What’s worse is these items are marketed toward children and teens,” he said.

Vaping, according to Galloway, is a common “gateway” through which youngsters often begin a process that leads them to progressively stronger substances.

“If you want to get a kid to use a drug, put it in a vape,” he said, noting that the wide variety of vape flavors is an attraction to many young people.

“In some areas, children as young as second and third grade have been found to be vaping,” Galloway noted, adding that most vaping brands contain nicotine, and that vape pens containing cannabis often utilize propane and butane, which the user breathes in along with the flavored substances.

To parents, Galloway delivered a stern advisory.

“Please don’t let the words ‘Well, at least they’re just vaping’ come out of your mouth,” he said, adding that an addiction to vaping is often more difficult to break than one to harder drugs.

While vaping is a common first step toward substance abuse, numerous other items containing dangerous substances are easy to find.

“ ‘Magic Mushrooms’ and ‘Diamond Shrooms’ are examples of substances that look like snacks, but contain hallucinogens in small, but potentially dangerous amounts,” he said, showing a slide of the packages, whose bright colors and design would easily capture a youngster’s attention.

As an example, Galloway displayed a redacted e-mail that he had received from a school resource officer at a Kentucky middle school, noting that a number of students there had been fainting over a short period of time. Upon investigating, it was determined that many students in the school had been using such substances.

“Fainting and seizures, along with panic attacks and anxiety, can result from use of these items,” he said.

Alcohol abuse remains a major problem among youth, yet marketers often target that demographic in their sales efforts.

According to Galloway, items such as “hard seltzers” or “sparkling seltzer beers” are often marketed to young people as low-carb, low-calorie alternatives to beer and other alcoholic beverages.

“But, look at the alcohol content of these drinks,” he said, noting that hard seltzers often are about 5 to 6% alcohol, and seltzer beers up to 7%.

“A beer is usually around 4%,” Galloway said.

While mixtures of cannabis and alcohol are illegal, Galloway noted that some manufacturers are able to circumvent these regulations by mixing alcohol with cannabis substitutes.

“It’s equivalent to weed, but it’s not weed,” he said.

Galloway is critical of states that have legalized such substances, and says that in his experience, legalizing them only exacerbates the problem.

“When you legalize it, you make it more available,” he said. “So, if it’s more available, kids will find a way to get their hands on it and use it more.”

On a positive note, Galloway noted that most national department store, convenience store and grocery store chains refrain from selling such items.

“They’ve got a reputation to uphold,” he said, “so most of them don’t stock these items.”

The businesses that parents should beware of are establishments such as smoke shops or others with no affiliation, said Galloway.

In closing, “Tall Cop” again appealed to parents to be aware of what their children are consuming.

“Every drug has some kind of side effect,” he said. “And no drug is ever completely safe.”