Florida lawmakers have opened a new battle in the drug war, trying to ban “fake pot” or synthetic marijuana, says the Miami Herald. Sold by the gram in brightly colored packages in convenience stores and head shops throughout Florida, the products are often marketed as incense. Buyers use the skunky-smelling stuff to get high — leading to thousands of frantic calls to poison-control hotlines and even trips to the emergency room. Synthetic pot can cause vertigo, severe nausea, headaches, and vomiting. At least 16 states now regulate or outlaw some strains of fake pot, which the Drug Enforcement Administration has tried to ban.
Law-enforcement officers testified yesterday that the sale of fake pot is on the rise and is hurting kids the most. Poison-control statistics tell a different story. Calls to poison control lines in Florida appear to have decreased since peaking in November. Last year, Florida poison-control offices fielded 236 fake pot-related calls; this year, only 15 poison-control calls have been made. Nationwide last year, poison-control centers fielded 2,866 calls. So far this year, 132 calls have been made nationwide. The spike in calls in 2010 was largely due to the “marketing effect” of news media stories, said Wendy Stephan, health education coordinator with the Florida Poison Information Center — Miami. Stephan said cracking down on the synthetic compounds is as tough as playing :whack-a-mole.” Soon after the DEA announced its ban, manufacturers started advertising fake-pot products called “Barely Legal” and “420 Incense.”