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Synthetic marijuana still a problem in NH, despite new law

Union Leader Correspondent

November 04. 2012 8:09PM

ALTON - When Allison Noyes found a small packet labeled "incense" in her son's pocket, she felt a swell of emotions. At first she was shocked, then angry.

Most of all, though, she was scared. And still is.

One of her sons has had problems with prescription drugs like oxycodone. Now she worries her other son is using the drug of choice for many American teenagers these days - synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 and spice.

"I knew he was smoking pot, but I got him to stop that," said Noyes. "Now I find this stuff, which says it's incense, but it's obviously synthetic pot, it costs $20 a pack and they won't sell it to anyone under 18. Kids are making bongs out of cans and smoking this stuff and getting really sick."

Two weeks ago, five ambulances were called to Manchester High School Central for students suffering drug-use symptoms. Police said one case was a reported overdose likely involving synthetic marijuana, and one student went to the hospital with an elevated heart rate and stroke-like symptoms after using it.

The substance comes in packets that contain plant materials coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, according to federal authorities. Side effects of its use include vomiting, elevated heartbeat and blood pressure, pale complexion, sweating, slurred speech, anxiety and potentially aggressive behavior.

In 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control five chemicals used in making "fake pot" products, making them illegal to possess and sell.

New Hampshire passed a law banning the substances that went into effect in August.

But state law enforcement officials say synthetic marijuana is still being sold in many convenience stores, and many people think it is still legal. The makers of the substance have also varied the ingredients, avoiding those specified by the DEA's ruling and making it harder for authorities to stop.

Under the new state law, possession of synthetic cannibinoids is a Class B misdemeanor and punishable with a fine. The sale of fake marijuana, is now a Class A felony and punishable by fines of up to $2,000 and 15 years in jail.

But the law isn't helping Noyes or the other concerned parents, as it hasn't stopped the sale of synthetic pot. Noyes hopes that state and federal authorities find more effective measures to stop the problem.

"These store owners know the kids are smoking it," she said. "It makes me so angry that this stuff is still on the market."

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