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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York state has banned the sale of “synthetic marijuana” that’s sold in convenience stores, smoke shops, and tobacco stores under brand names including “Spice”, “K2” and “Mr. Nice Guy.”
The products produces a high when smoked and have been linked to severe adverse reactions including death and acute renal failure. In announcing the ban, Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said they also commonly cause increased heart rates, paranoid behavior, agitation, and nausea, among other symptoms.
The plant material in the products is coated with chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
1010 WINS’ John Montone reports
The order issued Thursday calls for sales and distribution to stop immediately. Local health officials will distribute details of the ban to stores and will be tasked with checking for compliance.
Shah said calls to state poison control centers related to the synthetics increased to 105 since the beginning of 2011, compared to four in 2009 and 2010 combined. More than half the calls involved people under the age of 19. He said national poison control centers have received about 8,000 calls since 2011.
Violators will be referred to the state’s attorney general for prosecution and civil penalties would be set by a judge.
Officials say the drugs have become extremely popular among youth.
A recent national study found synthetic marijuana is the third most commonly abused drug by high school seniors, after marijuana and prescription drugs.
One man told 1010 WINS’ John Montone he knew someone who was hospitalized after trying “K2.”
“I don’t want to try it, it’s worse than regular drugs, it’ll mess your life up,” he said.
“Get rid of it, it’s not worth it, it’s hurting a lot of people for no reason,” another man said.
A Staten Island mom whose son ended up in a psychiatric ward after smoking a chemically-laced herb called the ban “wonderful news.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is backing a Senate bill that bans the sale of synthetic marijuana but that has been stalled by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who says bans should be implemented by state and local authorities.
New York “did the right thing enacting a state ban on this noxious product,” Schumer said Thursday. “We are working very hard to establish a federal ban so that kids seeking out these dangerous drugs can’t simply hop in a car and cross state borders to get a deadly high.”
Last month, New Jersey banned the making, possessing or selling of such drugs. Violators face three to five years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)