Enforcing synthetic marijuana ban proving difficult

Seven On Your Side
March 21, 2011 8:32:08 PM PDT
On March 1st, the DEA banned 5 chemicals used to make "synthetic marijuana."

But 7 On Your Side found the outlawed K-2 may be off the shelves, but other herbal blends falling under the ban are still readily available.

It's nicknamed the legal high, marketed as potpourri and smoked like pot.

Parents like Audrey Hochstadt applauded the DEA for banning the 5 chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana and sold as herbal incense blends like K-2 and Spice which kids from New Jersey to Long Island were smoking and getting sick.

"I've done a lot of research. I know that children have been rushed to the emergency room for neurological impairments, heart racing. It's serious," Hochstadt said.

"We're seeing the horrific effects like with the bath salts. We want to make sure people become aware of this so out kids do not experiment with this. We don't know the long term effect and they could be traumatic," Det. Sgt. Chris Bierman of Spotswood police said.

The Spotswood police took a proactive approach and went to the stores and removed all the K-2 off the shelves after the ban went into effect. Yet we found the same type of blend the DEA says is part of the ban still for sale

For instance, we found Spice 99, banned by the federal government for sale at two retailers.

Nina: This is the good high?
Clerk: Yeah
Nina: Do you know how much you have to smoke? Do you have to smoke the whole thing?
Clerk: I don't know
Nina: But this is a good high?
Clerk: (nods in agreement)

Moments later we went back in to question the clerk about selling the banned product.

Nina: This is being sold to children. You sell this to children?
Clerk: Okay, we'll take it out if it's illegal, but we should know because last time they banned the old one, the K-2.
Nina: So your distributor told you this is okay?
Clerk: Yeah.
Nina: Ok, well, you seem to recognize this is illegal because I asked you if it would get me high and you said it will.
Clerk: No. I don't smoke, but people use it for the wrong purpose.

The DEA admits, it's a challenge to enforce because labels change, but ingredients do not.

"What people don't understand is this is like playing Russian roulette. We have no idea what's in these packages until we test it. Even if they don't contain the 5 chemicals we've banned, they can be deemed analogs and that's prosecutable," the agency's spokesperson told us.

Yet another retailer selling the blends was confident everything on his shelves was legit, showing us lab reports to prove it.

We contacted the manufacturer of Spice 99 based in Virginia, CEO Mo James told 7 On Your Side:

"Retailers were told to dispose of the old products, but they banned this overnight and need to give a grace period. We disposed of more than 3 million dollars worth of goods, and we are in compliance. We don't use those chemical anymore? We have new blends and new packaging."

After learning from us about the products still for sale, law enforcement asked the retailers to remove the blends and stop distributing them.


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