In recent years, smoke shops across the country have sold synthetic marijuana as a supposedly legal alternative to prohibited drugs. However, Louisiana and a number of other states now outlaw the substance, treating it much like other controlled substances, with the same type of penalties associated with traditional drug charges.
A New Orleans man was recently arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids. Police said they arrested the man after a two-month investigation into his smoke shop business. He also faces charges related to marijuana and other drugs, and was wanted on a warrant in connection to an alleged robbery in another state.
Synthetic marijuana is actually not related at all to marijuana plants. Instead, it is a chemical that is sprayed onto herbs or incense and then smoked. It has been marketed under brand names such as "Spice" or "K-2," but an increasing number of states have outlawed its possession or trade, along with that of another type of drug commonly referred to as "bath salts." Studies have shown both these drugs can cause health problems and they have been associated with suicides and homicides.
The drugs are relatively new, however, and lawmakers and law enforcement are still struggling with how to handle them. Today, those charged with crimes related to synthetic drugs face penalties that are similar to what they would face if charged with possession of marijuana.
These penalties can be harsh, and they get more severe as other factors enter the mix. Those who allegedly have over a certain amount of the drugs in their possession at the time of the arrest will be charged with possession with the intent to distribute, under the assumption that anyone who had over a certain amount must have wanted to sell it.
Source: The Advocate, "Donaldsonville business owner arrested on drug charges," May 1, 2013