Sen. Schumer Says Product Makers Skirt The Law By Tweaking Ingredients

MELVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s known as incense or potpourri, but it’s not the kind you use to make a room smell nice.

It’s an herbal mixture that’s being smoked for a high, and getting many people sick. Now, as CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, there’s a new effort to get it banned.

It looks like marijuana and it’s smoked like marijuana, but its legal, packaged under names like potpourri, Spice and Legal Phunk, and sold at a smoke shop near you. Its herbs are laced with chemicals that produce a legal — and some say –dangerous high.

“They’re toxic chemicals. You want to know what this feels like? Go under your sink and take out caustic chemicals. That’s what kids are doing day in and day out,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Reynolds said users have no idea what they’re smoking because ingredients aren’t listed on packs and side effects are alarming.

“Seizures and anxiety attacks, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts, and those are just some of the symptoms we know about,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.

It’s why Rice joined Sen. Charles Schumer on Monday to push for a national ban on so-called “synthetic marijuana.” Schumer said makers now skirt the law by tweaking the ingredients.

“They move a hydrogen atom from here to here or a carbon atom from there to there. It has the exact same effect as marijuana, but it’s not technically outlawed as marijuana,” Sen. Schumer said.

On Long Island, where some smoke shops are selling $1,000 worth a day, buyers say they like the high because it lasts longer and isn’t detected on drug tests.

One buyer didn’t want CBS 2 to show his face on camera.

“When you’re trying to enjoy your day, you don’t want to worry about getting arrested,” the buyer said.

But lawmakers said that’s the problem — marijuana masquerading as something safer. It may not be long before they are taken off store shelves. A ban has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

Despite warnings the products are more popular than ever. There were 7,000 calls to poison control centers nationwide last year involving synthetic marijuana — double the number from the year before.

Do you think this is a good idea or an example of the government interfering? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …

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