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Baton Rouge police arrest six in synthetic marijuana crackdown

Louisiana authorities have been cracking down on so-called synthetic marijuana. Use of these products is prohibited in the state, where they are considered Schedule I controlled substances and health officials have warned the public to stay away from them after they said 100 people have been treated for life-threatening symptoms caused by the drugs.

Baton Rouge police recently announced that they arrested six people and charged them with intent to distribute synthetic marijuana after raids at two stores in the city. Two of the individuals who were arrested were owners of the establishments. The other four were employees of the stores.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the term synthetic marijuana refers to a wide variety of products that are intended to produce mind-altering effects similar to those produced by cannabis. Sold under a variety of names, including Spice and K2, synthetic marijuana is sometimes marketed as a safe or legal alternative to illegal marijuana. However, authorities say these substances are neither safe nor legal.

According to the NIDA, synthetic marijuana typically consists of dried herbs that have been treated with chemicals to give them psychoactive effects. The federal government recently outlawed the most common of these chemicals. Louisiana officials recently passed an emergency law banning eight more chemicals that are sometimes used in the products.

The chemistry and laws may be changing, but for those arrested in the current crackdown on synthetic marijuana, the drug charges look very familiar. The status of synthetic marijuana as a Schedule I drug means that those charged with crimes involving synthetic marijuana could face the same penalties as those charged with crimes involving heroin.

Source: NOLA.com, "Baton Rouge smoke shop owners busted for synthetic marijuana sales," Quincy Hodges, March 25, 2014

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