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Artificial marijuana causes death of Westmoreland boy

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By Richard Gazarik
Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

A Westmoreland County boy whose lungs were damaged after smoking artificial marijuana died this morning.

Tonya Rice of Tarrs said her son, Brandon, was a "fighter, a real fighter."

The 13-year-old Southmoreland eighth-grader lost the fight for his life at 8:21 a.m. today in UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, his mother said.

Brandon had a double-lung transplant in September after becoming ill from smoking a synthetic form of marijuana known by various names, such as K2, Spice, Blaze and Vanilla Sky. In June, Brandon was placed on a respirator to keep him alive. He developed an infection because the drugs he has been administered since the transplant surgery had weakened his immune system, making it difficult for him to overcome the infection, said his mother.

"He was smart. He was caring. He was a good baseball player. He loved to hunt. He loved to fish. He was a fighter," said Tonya Rice. "It was hard, very hard. He couldn't talk to us. We had to read his lips. A lot of times we couldn't understand what he was saying. He fought and fought and fought."

Brandon smoked the fake drug from a plastic PEZ candy dispenser. The chemicals in the drug caused extensive damage .

"Thursday's a month to the day he had the transplant," his mother said. "He was sick going into it but he was so strong. He would have made it through but he got an infection he couldn't fight."

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