"Legal weed" has health and law enforcement officials seeking ban

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Synthetic marijuana or "legal weed" has certainly come a long way. It's legal, and it's sold in gas stations, head shops and convenience stores everywhere.

This stuff is packaged as herbal incense under names such as K2, Spice, Mr. Nice Guy, Voodoo and others. Synthetic marijuana has tons of smokers around the country and here in Queen City rolling it or putting it in their pipes.

Banned in some states, it's legal in most areas of the Tri-State - for now. Yet this synthetic and chemically treated substance is potent and potentially dangerous.

Fake pot often comes in tea bag-sized packets, with labels in some cases that say, "Not for human consumption." It is sold for up to $30 for 3 grams, a higher price than the real deal, and completely legal and impossible to detect on a traditional drug urine test.

It's found in flavors such as strawberry, mint and blueberry. That means that when smoked, the herbal incense emits a fruity smell. Synthetic weed is a psychoactive herbal and chemical product which, when consumed mimics the effects of marijuana.

When legal weed blends first went on sale in the early 2000's it was thought that they achieved an effect through a mixture of legal herbs.

Laboratory analysis in 2008 showed this was not the case and that they in fact contained synthetic cannabinoids which act on the body in a similar way to cannabinoids naturally found in cannabis, such as THC.

On Nov. 24, 2010, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announced it would make five synthetic cannabinoids Schedule II drugs within a month using emergency powers. Prior to the announcement, several US states had already made them illegal under state law.

Some bans around the country are based on reports of people being sent to hospitals after smoking the substance. Authorities in Iowa are investigating whether an 18-year-old committed suicide after smoking synthetic marijuana with friends.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports minor to moderate reactions to synthetic marijuana, including fast heart rates, confusion and nausea. There were 698 poison reports related to synthetic marijuana in 2010.

What is it? Herbs sold as incense in small packets. The plants have been sprayed with a chemical that is designed to mimic THC, the active ingredient in pot.

Where is it sold? It is often available at gas stations and convenience stories.

The cost? $30 for 3 grams.

Possible symptoms: Dizziness, nausea, agitation, irregular or racing heartbeat, hallucinations or coma.

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