As a child Jessie Peterson was outgoing, kind, talented and athletic. As she transitioned into her teens she became "very snappy, depressed and very disrespectful," said her mom, Missy Peterson.
At first Missy chalked up Jessie's behavior to typical teen mood swings. But as a mom, Missy knew something else was going on as Jessie stopped hanging out with her friends, her grades at school dropped, she quit playing softball and she started to isolate herself from her close-knit family.
Then in November 2010, Missy's phone rang. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office was calling to let her know Jessie was caught smoking pot at school. She was only 13, Missy said.
Now at age 15, Jessie is in residential rehabilitation for synthetic pot for the fourth time. Her parents went to the neighborhood convenience stores and pleaded with them not to sell the synthetics to their under-aged daughter. They spent countless hours every night looking for her after Jessie stopped coming home because she knew her parents would be angry, Missy said.
"She started stealing money from us and our belongings that we had to get a lock put on our bedroom door. Who would have thought that 'Fake Pot' would do such harm," Missy wrote in a post on her Facebook page, Mothers Against Synthetic Pot.
Missy hopes to mobilize the community through Facebook and public speaking opportunities. She's working with authorities and talking about her family's experience. She wants to get synthetic pot off the shelves of local convenience stores so another family does not have to go through what hers has suffered.
"I have lost my child to addiction. I have not totally lost my child," Missy said. "I don't want anything like this to happen to another family."
Missy knows that her daughter purchased the synthetic pot. But the accessibility of synthetic marijuana to teens troubles her.
"We never blamed synthetic pot. It is unacceptable that she can walk into a gas station and buy it," Missy said.
Missy was reluctant at first to come forward.
"I thought people would judge me," she said. "Finally I realized it is not my fault. I felt alone fighting the battle. I want people to understand they are not alone."