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Alarming Trend? Young People Smoking Pot-Free Herbal Incense

Rockland Man Hospitalized, Woman Briefly Loses Use Of Legs
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AM-HI-CO Atomic Bomb (credit: AM-HI-CO)

AM-HI-CO Atomic Bomb (credit: AM-HI-CO)

Tony Aiello thumbnail Tony Aiello
Tony Aiello serves as a CBS 2 general assignment reporter. After...
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NANUET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – They bought it at the mall, and it put them in the hospital – so-called “herbal incense,” which some people smoke to get high.

But in this case it made three teenagers sick, and one of them landed in intensive care, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

It’s a pot-free herbal blend that looks like marijuana and it’s smoked like marijuana, despite the warning on the package reading “not for human consumption.”

WCBS 880′s Catherine Cioffi: The Packaging Says It’s Not To Be Smoked

“That’s pretty much the appeal. It won’t come up on a drug test,” said Rockland County resident Brian Quinn, who added when asked if it gets people high, “Yeah, yeah it does.”

Aiello spoke to some 20-somethings on Tuesday. They said you can find it at many smoke shops, so-called “fake pot,” marketed, legally, as herbal incense.

One brand called “Atomic Bomb” was sold last weekend at the Palisades Mall — with dangerous results.

Herbal incense

Herbal incense is becoming the new fake drug of choice in some Tri-State Area communities. (Photo: CBS 2)

“We have two serious cases, and we’re expecting we might have more out there if people don’t stop this,” Clarkstown Police Sgt. Harry Baumann told Aiello.

Clarkstown Police had their first case on Saturday, with an emergency response to the mall parking garage. Police answered a call of a young man with difficulty breathing. When they got to the mall they realized he was pretty messed up.

“When we responded, he was combative, and, obviously, was high on something,” Sgt. Baumann said.

Friends told cops the 19-year-old had been smoking “Atomic Bomb.” He spent the weekend in intensive care with breathing trouble and other symptoms.

Then on Sunday cops aided two young women who’d been smoking the same herbal incense. One temporarily lost the use of her legs.

“She was breathing but couldn’t move her body,” Sgt. Baumann said.

The Rockland Council on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependence said the product is marketed as 100 percent legal in all 50 states. Director Ruth Bowles said she’s worried about the product’s easy availability.

“Young people especially think it’s benign. They don’t understand the harmful effects on their bodies,” Bowles said.

It’s fake pot, considered by many to be a real threat. Sergeant Tim O’Neil said the packaging specifically said it should not be smoked, but still, teens are doing it.

“It just says it’s a novelty collector’s item, and, to tell you the truth, the smell inside isn’t all that great. So, I don’t who would be using this for incense, but that’s how they’re selling it,” says O’Neil. “It’s scary and it’s also scary that it’s legal. We can’t even charge anybody.”

Last month the Drug Enforcement Administration told herbal incense makers to stop using certain chemicals. Most claim they’ve reformulated their product to meet the new guidelines.

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