The owner of a Washington, D.C., head shop tells the Washington Post that demand for “spice,” the generic name for a legal “synthetic marijuana,” has doubled each month in the 18 months he’s been selling it, and its sales represent a third of his revenue. On some Fridays, his two stores can bring in $10,000 from the sale of spice alone. In most places across the country, it is legal to buy and sell spice, whose crushed green leaves are sprayed with various man-made chemicals. When smoked, the treated leaves can produce a marijuana-like high. Alarmed by its growing use and questions about its safety, lawmakers in a number of states have begun taking action.
Last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon became the latest to sign a state ban. In March, Kansas was the first state to outlaw the product, followed by Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. Lawmakers in other states, including Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, and Louisiana, are working on bans. Federal drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said that the substance is “on our radar” but added that he thought state legislatures are dealing well with the issue. Others decry what they see as a knee-jerk reaction from lawmakers, making the synthetic marijuana product the latest substance at the center of an ongoing debate about the merits of prohibition.