Attention All Readers – You Must Know

All yellow Porsche 997 Turbo

First i would like to thank each and every reader that has made our blog one of the largest if not the largest for herbal incense and bath salt reviews and news. I have had so many emails these past 2 months asking me if you can buy herbal incense products from me. I just dont have time to email every request back that i get and i never want a reader to think that we are not interacting with you.

Here is the facts, we do not in any way shape or form sell herbal incense products. We are simply a resource for information in the herbal incense spice world. We enjoy giving readers information about the herbal incense spice busts and the incense industy reviews on herbal products. I know that the DEA and law enforcement has cracked down hard on several business across the USA over the past 2 months and now herbal incense is much harder to find.

I know this because everyday i get all the news and busts from our large database of resources and news streams. But i want to make it very clear we are only a resource for learning everything there is to know about herbal incense and news. We do not sell, stock, or tell clients where to buy herbal products or bath salts. If a client sends us a sample of there herbal incense products and its a legal product, we will review that product and write a post to edcuate the public on what we feel about that product. Keep in mind everyone has a different opion about herbal products and everything in life.

Here is an example, i have a freind of mine that bought a brand new porsche and its an amazing car. But that car is bright yellow and to me its screams UGLY. Now everyone else might just love yellow porsches, but i cant stand yellow cars. Now if i was to write a review about that bright yellow car i would say what a nice ride but bad choice in the cars color. Lets say i posted a pic it here

Now how many of you think this yellow porsche 997 turbo is amazing? Well when i look at it i just see a yellow BEE.

So my point is that everyone does not agree on everything. Many times when i post about a herbal incense i have tried i do my best to insure that i let people know just how strong there herbal spice is. Well to me – a daily smoker, its not as strong as someone that might only smoke once a month. Thats why i do my best to be honest so that my readers know what there getting before they get it. But thats only my opion. If i here of any great websites selling wholesale herbal incense i will make a post and update you and try to do a mass email on all the requests that i get for it.

But honstly i dont like to tell people where to buy any products, just give you a review of what i tried what my personal opion is of that product and where i got it from.
Hope this helps and as always thanks for all the support from our readers. It really is awesome. We have over 300,000 visits per week and thats truly amazing!

Synthetic Drug Ring In Allentown Busted By DEA

Thats right 15 people were arrested in bust of alleged synthetic drugs operation run from Allentown warehouse.
NORRISTOWN, Montgomery County — The inventory in an old east Allentown warehouse was a drug user’s paradise: rows and rows of colorful glass smoking bongs, boxes holding thousands of grinders and scales, hundreds of rolling papers and about $200,000.

For store owners in the region looking to score chemically enhanced drugs like bath salts and synthetic marijuana, not to mention the goods needed to smoke them, J&L Wholesale Distributors at 1006 Hanover Ave. was the place to go, authorities say.

J&L’s lucrative enterprise, housed in a nondescript building near a day care center and in a school zone, kicked into high gear when synthetic drugs were declared illegal in Pennsylvania a year ago, authorities said.

But that came crashing down Thursday for J&L owner Kenneth Grossman when police rounded up him and 14 others, mostly from the Lehigh Valley. Authorities said they say helped push a relatively cheap high on drug users from the Lehigh Valley to New Jersey.

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All were charged with participating in a corrupt organization and profiting from the proceeds of illegal activity, both first-degree felonies, and related drug offenses.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said during a news conference with Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin that the elaborate drug sting, known as “Operation Bowls, Bongs and Beyond,” put a dent in the drug trade in both counties, yielded synthetic marijuana, two tractor-trailers filled with paraphernalia, plus several guns.

Police also seized more than $900,000, including money from the warehouse and several bank accounts, and dozens of common items such as soda cans, sugar containers and clocks that were hollowed out to create secret compartments used to hide drugs.

Grossman, 52, of 820 E. Chew St., Allentown also was part of a partnership that ran Insense Specialties, which supplied the illegal drugs, mainly synthetic marijuana and bath salts, authorities said. The others in the partnership were: Jason Grossman, 24, of 1847 Cloverdale Road, Bethlehem; Rajwant Thind, 30, of 6498 Overlook Road, Orefield; and Malwinder Mangat, 26, of 1016 Hilltop Court, Leesport.

Martin said the arrests show authorities are making good on their pledge last year to crack down on store owners selling the drugs that became illegal in August 2011 and their suppliers.

“Hopefully, they will get the message that we will prosecute,” Martin said.

Known as designer drugs, the substances are made from natural herbs and synthetic chemicals to mirror the effects of drugs like marijuana. But the drugs have been known to cause erratic and violent behavior in those who take them. Police say people high on the synthetic drugs have unusual strength and tolerance to pain.

Ferman said she was particularly disturbed that the drugs were targeted at youngsters, with packaging labeled “Scooby Snax” and with the Batman emblem. She pointed out an incident in June 30 during which a 20-year-old man from Upper Pottsgrove Township, Montgomery County, involved in a vehicle crash told medics that he was hallucinating after smoking a substance called “K-2” and took his hands off the wheel “to see what happened.”

“This is a huge, profitable business and these people are in it for the money,” Ferman said. “This is a community [in Allentown] where children are in the neighborhood. These are toxic, dangerous substances.”

Ferman said J&L became the prime target of the probe involving multiple police departments after investigators realized that items seized in store busts all led back to the warehouse. Among the stores that allegedly distributed the drugs and paraphernalia: Deli Mart, South Whitehall Township; Trexler Plaza Sunoco in Upper Macungie Township; the EZ Shoppe in East Greenville; Main Street Market in Schwenksville; and U.S. Gas in Upper Frederick Township.

Detective Joseph P. Kelly Jr. of Souderton police, who helped head the investigation, said Grossman even took his show on the road to branch out, bringing samples to an October 2011 “head shop” convention in Atlantic City, N.J.,

Police went as far as setting up a fake business in Souderton to order items from J&L, and used multiple informants to pin down all of the players.

Thind, identified in court records as manager of the Trexler Plaza Sunoco at 5917 Tilghman St., Upper Macungie, told police that Kenneth Grossman took a majority of the synthetic drug product orders and that Thind and Mangat filled the orders and sent the products to customers.

The others charged were employees of Grossman’s company or store owners who bought items from J&L and resold them.

They include: Kunal G. Patel, 42, of 377 Indigo Way, Upper Macungie; Jaymin G. Patel, 45, of 457 Wild Mint Lane, Upper Macungie; Dean A. Fenstermaker Jr., 29, of 4272 Windsor Drive, Upper Macungie; Jeffrey Robertson Jr., 25, of 10441 Trexler Road, Upper Macungie; Abdulah F. Soonasra, 64, of 1713 Brookstone Drive, Alburtis; Lisa A. Zupa, 35, of 233 Harvard Avenue, Palmerton; Mohammed F. Rahman, 42, of Lansdale; Ibrahim Fayez Saloum, 41, of Schwenksville; Amy N. Velazquez, 30, of Schwenksville; Yashvant M. Patel, 49, of East Greenville; Yogesh Patel, 44, of East Greenville.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting all of the cases.

Pinellas officials considering banning bath salts and some incenses

In their latest salvo in the on-going struggle against synthetic marijuana, Pinellas County officials are seeking to ban the sale of bath salts and certain herbal incense products.

The proposed ordinance is an attempt to close the loophole created when Florida banned more than 90 chemicals used in synthetic marijuana. County officials said that by the time those products were off the shelves, drugmakers had already adapted by concocting new, legal cocktails that are as dangerous as their predecessors.

“What we want to do is make sure that we took the opportunity to close those gaps to ensure those things don’t come growing back,” said Tim Burns, the county’s director of Justice and Consumer Services.

In addition to banning synthetic marijuana, bath salts and kratom — a lesser-known substance that comes from a tropical plant — the ordinance would establish a five-person committee responsible for reviewing new products and possibly banning those as well.

Today, the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to hold a public hearing on the proposed regulations.

Leo Calzadilla, who owns three tobacco shops in Pinellas County and is planning to open a fourth, said he would protest the ordinance. When state law banned a variety of products, he changed what he sold, he said. But the race to pass new ordinances and outfox manufacturers seems pointless to him, as well as bad for business.

“Herbal incense is sold as herbal incense,” he said. “That’s what it’s intended for. … What people do with it is their prerogative.”

Many of the synthetic marijuana products are labeled “not for consumption,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, adding that this was “intellectually dishonest.”

Manufacturers know that teenagers buy their products intending to smoke or ingest them, he said. The drugs can cause extreme euphoria, as well as hallucinations and seizures. And there have been several high-profile instances in which teenagers died or were injured while under the influence of those substances.

Gualtieri said he is distributing letters to store owners, asking them to voluntarily drop the synthetic drugs from their inventories.

Randy Heine, owner of Rockin Cards & Gifts, a tobacco shop in Pinellas Park, said he would not object to banning synthetic marijuana, though this should be done at a state level, he said. But kratom is another matter.

Heine sells kratom leaves for smoking, kratom powder for making tea, and kratomite, a liquid concoction he described as a “relaxer.”

“I’ve been selling it steadily for 30 years without a problem, zero, nada, nothing,” he said. “There’s minimal reports of problems, compared to coffee, aspirin, cigarettes, and nobody has died of this; it’s just hysteria.”

“I’ve got to confess I don’t even know what it is,” Gualtieri said. “It’s not on my radar.”

But Burns maintained that kratom is an emerging product, one that might not be well-known to law enforcement officials now, but is poised to replace the synthetic drugs the county is hoping to banish.

The county’s proposed ordinance cites Thailand’s decision to outlaw kratom, as well as the substance’s inclusion on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of drugs and chemicals of concern as reason for banning it in Pinellas.

County officials also have proposed new regulations that would require stores selling glass pipes and bongs to post large warning signs on the front of their buildings.

Legal but Dangerous: Synthetic drug causing problems in Casa Grande

The “spice” container reads: “Warning This Product is Not For Human Consumption.” It’s marketed as incense, herbs or potpourri, but you won’t find it at your local home or candle store. You’ll find this spice at the local convenience and liquor stores, gas stations and smoke shops.The problem with this dangerous drug is so big that President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 in early July. The law bans synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs like “bath salts,” which are commonly sold as plant food. They have nothing in common with the toiletries used to soften skin.

But the manufacturers simply change the formula slightly to stay one step ahead of the law.

No numbers are yet available for emergency calls resulting from using spice, but the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported more than 6,100 emergency calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 in 2010 — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

What exactly is spice?

“People say that it’s synthetic marijuana,” said Cindy Schaider, executive director of the Casa Grande Alliance. “It’s not marijuana — in fact that’s part of the danger. People in the first place erroneously believe marijuana is safe — which it’s not — but then if marijuana is safe, then synthetic marijuana would be safe. Neither one is safe, but spice is a really dangerous drug.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines spice as a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as safe, legal alternatives to that drug.

Spice looks like dried grass clippings or shredded plant materials, but it contains chemical additives responsible for mind-altering effects that have been linked to violent behavior across the United States.

According to the National Association for Addiction Professionals, there are two receptors in the human brain that react to cannabinoids. One reduces pain and the other allows people to “get high.” Synthetic or natural substances used to get high can have many other effects on humans: severe anxiety, panic attacks, disassociation, racing thoughts, hallucinations, rapid pulse (tachycardia) and death/suicide.

“The chemical in marijuana stimulates the part of the brain called the cannabinoid receptor and that is what gives them the feeling of intoxication,” Schaider said. “Spice has synthetically created a similar chemical — they spray it on these leaves so when you smoke it, it stimulates that part of your brain.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was able to get five of the major chemicals banned for a one-year period but companies that produce spice are constantly reformulating the chemicals to stay one step ahead of law enforcement.

What smokers say

It’s legal to buy yet everyone I interviewed didn’t want to provide a real name.

“James,” 45, smokes spice every day. “I’ve been smoking it for a couple years — it’s off the chain!” James said. “It’s awesome — for one thing it doesn’t show up on my job’s drug screen. I operate heavy equipment and am drug tested frequently.” James was constantly shifting and appeared nervous, while beads of sweat appeared on his face, despite the fact the interview was conducted in an air-conditioned building.

“You get the same effect as marijuana but you don’t get as sleepy or hallucinate — you get a high but it stops sooner — you stay high for an hour or two. I roll mine in a flavored blunt — try to cover up the taste.”


Mom, 40, and Daughter, 19, smoke spice together. This particular day they bought 10 grams of spice, the volume equivalent of $30 in marijuana. “We smoke spice because marijuana is too expensive,” they said.

Mom works in the behavioral health department at a Florence correctional facility. “Not only that but my job drug screens and this isn’t detectable. I’m a little scared and nervous about the things I’ve heard about it though,” she said.

“How people are ending up in diapers or losing their hair or have internal bleeding.” But that doesn’t stop them from using it. “It’s almost the equivalent of smoking marijuana,” Mom said. “Except this is a little more intense — it’s a quicker high but it goes away quicker too. There have been times when I smoked it and I’m sitting down — I have to literally think about what I’m going to do even if it’s just to go to the bathroom — I have to plan it out because I feel like I’m about to fall.”

Drivers under the influence of the drug may face charges of driving while impaired, said Officer Thomas Anderson of the Casa Grande Police Department.

Boyfriend, 28, and Girlfriend, 25, smoke spice regularly.

“I’ve smoked it quite a few times,” Boyfriend said. “It gives you a good high for 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve smoked some that has made me hallucinate — pretty wild.”

Girlfriend said she doesn’t believe it makes people sick.

“I think it’s just mass hysteria — it’s the legal way of smoking marijuana,” she said.

“It’s all a conspiracy made up by the government,” said Boyfriend. However, “I heard people died from it — that makes me nervous.”

Why do they sell it?

It’s legal to sell but the store owners don’t want to use their names.

One Casa Grande smoke shop owner said he didn’t know anything about it when asked if it was dangerous.

“It says not for human consumption,” he commented. “You seem to know more than I do about it.” Other questions received an answer of “no comment.”

A spokeswoman at Smoke’m, 1397 E. Florence Blvd., said the store sells spice as “exotic potpourri.” She said people are using it as synthetic marijuana. Her store doesn’t advertise the product and keeps it hidden behind the counter because children sometimes come into the store with parents.

“It’s [spice] not for human consumption — but it’s in my top six sellers — it’s very common. One of my employees got sick off the old stuff and he had to take a couple of days off from work — flu-like symptoms — it’s not for human consumption,” she said. The owner said she believes the drug will become illegal to sell eventually.

An employee at a liquor store in Casa Grande said she wouldn’t smoke it. She said the store has at least three regular customers, including one man who buys $30 a day in spice — that’s $900 per month.

All the stores I spoke with said they only sell the second generation of spice. However, one customer said he knew of one store that still had the original stuff — you just need to know how to ask for it.

After the first generation of spice and its chemical makeup were made illegal, developers of the product tweaked the molecular structure to avoid prosecution.

One family’s experience

Joe Rodriguez, 46, of Stanfield said he found out his 25-year-old son was smoking spice in November 2011.

“I didn’t know until I went through his room and found a little jar with a screw-on lid,” Rodriguez said. “I asked him, what is this?”

The son told him it was a legal form of cannabis since he couldn’t smoke pot at work due to drug testing.

Rodriguez said he noticed his son’s habits change — from the way he dressed to cleaning up his room.

“Stuff around the house started coming up missing — a PS3 I won at work, a watch and some other stuff,” he said. “I don’t know what he did with it — he just said he needed it. He acted totally different.”

The son had graduated from college with a computer science degree.

“This was a kid who could sit down, look at a computer and say ‘this is the problem’ without even touching it and now he’s forgetting it. My son taught me how to use a computer — he knows how to break them down, he knows code, he knows DOS. If you would have met him before he started smoking spice, he was respectful and a good kid.”

The son is now in the county jail on a misdemeanor charge for failure to appear in court. Rodriguez said one night his son got so angry he threw a speaker at his face, causing Rodriguez to need medical attention under his right eye. The son is scheduled to be released from jail later this month.

“Now he thinks somebody is following him, somebody’s bugging the house — he’s just paranoid,” he said. “This kid used to build robots in high school — this kid was smart.”

Rodriguez is worried the drug caused some permanent damage to his son.

“I know he’s not going to be the same,” he said. “But I’m hoping that he’ll stop it and move forward with his life because he’s a good kid.”

Affecting the community

“I’m really concerned about spice,” Schaider said. “We are part of the Pinal County Substance Abuse Council and put out a brochure each year about drug trends. This year our brochure is about spice and it’s perfectly legal to buy spice.”

Most employers screen with a general five-panel test, referred to as a NIDA-5. This standard test provides rapid results if marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamines, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP) are detected in the urine.

Donna McBride, spokeswoman for Pinal County Juvenile Court Services, said that last year the county was offered free testing for spice for all probationers.

“The numbers were quite high,” she said. “There is a specific test for spice — it’s quite frankly rather costly. If we have a probation officer that suspects a kid might be using this stuff, then they can request an additional testing.”

“When we test­ — we find kids using because it’s easily accessible,” she said. “Have we seen it increase? Yes, because it’s like a new fad — something that kids are going to gravitate toward — something new to try.”

McBride said that if the test comes back positive for spice, the probation officer sits down with the juvenile and the family to discuss counseling information and come up with a plan to help the juvenile. The juvenile is retested at a later date and faces consequences if the result is positive.

“If we start with this town, this county — and stop the sale of it,” Rodriguez said. “These kids are not going to drive to Phoenix to go get it. We can put a dent in stopping them from ruining our kids’ lives — or anybody’s lives.”

McBride offered up one way for the community to be more responsible.

“If you’re a business owner and you do drug testing, make sure that your drug test includes those drugs that are pertinent to our area, which includes spice and bath salts,” she said.

Bath Salts Problem Grows, Drug Counselors Say They Have Their Hands Full


The drug landscape is changing all across the country.  No longer are people just relying on what comes from the Earth.

They’re smoking, inhaling and shooting what chemists make in the lab.  They’re producing marijuana or bath salts.

There was a major bust around the country by the Drug Enforcement Agency.  Investigators found $59 million worth of synthetic marijuana in the Houston area alone.

It comes in small packets that indicate it’s approved by the DEA. Federal investigators say to laugh at that.

Chris Davis has been a drug counselor at Right Step in Houston for more than a decade.

“It’s up there with methamphetamine and cocaine,” Davis said.

He has 10 people he’s currently working with who are hooked on bath salts, a drug that hit the market about two years ago.

It’s a chemical mix that contains amphetamine-like chemicals and Davis says it’s just as addictive as other drugs like cocaine and the symptoms vary.

“Hallucinations and delusional, it can be very scary they can be very paranoid,” Davis said.  “It’s similar to what could happen to using methamphetamines.”

Davis says he’s glad federal agents on cracking down on the synthetic drugs that have landed in smoke shops around the county.

He says the results have made headlines with zombie like users in Florida.  He says it’s not a drug to take lightly and it’s difficult to shake.

“It takes a longer time for them to stabilize.  It’s pretty tough,” Davis said





Authorities cracking down on synthetic marijuana

An Alpharetta company was raided by authorities Wednesday as part of a local crackdown on synthetic marijuana, Channel 2 Action News reported.

No arrests were made at Nutragenomics Manufacturing on Holcomb Bridge Road, but agents said the bust could impact sales all over the country.

“This is a major national distributor of the synthetic cannabinoids,” GBI Special Agent Rusty Grant told Channel 2.

An announcement about a nationwide crackdown is expected to be made Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

State and federal authorities seized evidence, primarily documents, from the Alpharetta business. Investigators said the company distributes chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana and other substances that are now illegal in Georgia.

Stuart Mones, an attorney for the company, told Channel 2, “We are still processing it. The only thing to keep in mind is it was a warrant. No one is placed into custody.”

Last week, Nutragenomics Manufacturing was temporarily banned from doing business in West Virginia, where Attorney General Darrell McGraw has sued the company. He alleged in April that Nutragenomics was a “significant distributor” of ingredients used to make bath salts, synthetic marijuana and other drugs.

Synthetic weed may cause heart attacks, but it’s tough to ban

Spice, Blaze, K2, Red X Dawn. Any of them sound familiar? They’re different brands of synthetic pot — psychoactive drugs (commonly marketed in head shops as incense) which contain chemicals that, much like the THC in marijuana, act on the cannabinoid receptors in your brain. Sounds peachy, right? There’s a catch. Unlike pot, which is known to increase heart rate but is otherwise rarely linked to heart problems, the synthetic stuff appears to be leading to heart attacks, most recently in three Texas teenagers.

Back in November, 80beats’ Douglas Main gave this rundown of the circumstances surrounding the cases, which are published in that month’s journal Pediatrics:

Serious as a Heart Attack:

  • All three teenagers were seen at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas within three months of one another, after complaining of chest pain for several days. Myocardial infarctions were confirmed with EEG readings and the presence of troponin, a chemical released when heart muscles are damaged. Each was treated and released.
  • Though all three admitted to smoking marijuana in the previous few weeks, their use of K2 occurred just before symptoms of chest pain began. Two tested positive for THC; all tested negative for other drugs of abuse. Only one patient was tested for two synthetic cannabinoids, which weren’t detected. This is likely due to the widely varying blend of cannabinoids used in these products.
  • Very rarely, marijuana use has been linked to heart attacks, thought to arise from THC’s ability to increase heart rate and cardiac output.
  • K2 may cause an increased risk for a heart attack due to a stronger activation of this same pathway, or via another unknown route. Colin Kane, a pediatric cardiologist at UT Southwestern & Children’s Medical Center in Dallas told Reuters he was “certainly suspicious that there was something in the K2 that would have caused these heart attacks.”
  • No chemical analysis was done on the products the teenagers smoked and is only described in the paper as, “K2, Spice (Dallas, Texas, manufacturer unknown).”

In any case, all these adverse reactions to synthetic weed were obviously attracting the attention of the U.S. DEA, which promptly stepped in to ban the stuff; but — surprise, surprise — attempts to curb the sale of these substances have been woefully unavailing. On July 9th, President Obama signed into law the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, a federal ban on, as its name suggests, synthetic drugs. But as Wired’s Brandon Keim reports, the ban has managed to become obsolete in a manner of days:

Drug formulations not covered by the law’s language, and almost certainly synthesized in direct response to legal pressure, are already on sale. If synthetics are supposed to be part of the War on Drugs, then this battle may already be lost.

“There are several compounds out there now, in mixtures that I’ve tested myself, that would not fall under this ban,” said Kevin Shanks, a forensic toxicologist at AIT Laboratories, an Indiana-based chemical testing company. “The law just can’t seem to keep up.”

It’s hard to watch this kind of scenario unfold and not reflect on the absurdity of marijuana criminalization. Is this a preview of what the war on drugs will look like in the years to come — a continuously escalating back-and-forth between the laws that would see a substance like marijuana banned, and the (potentially dangerous) reactionary measures designed to exploit loopholes in those laws?

“In this area of Indiana, we’re not seeing any of the classical compounds we’ve seen in the last year,” Shanks said. “We’re seeing the uncontrolled ones. I have no doubt they were designed specifically for that reason.”

Stores comply with law on K2, Spice

Looking for K2?

Law enforcement officials said you probably won’t find the drug at area gas stations, smoke shops and party stores that once had packages of synthetic marijuana displayed on their shelves.

As of Sunday, Michigan State Police had the authority to remove the drugs from businesses that hadn’t yet done so. The measure was a part of a package of bills Gov. Rick Snyder signed June 19 outlawing synthetic marijuana.

Police in Port Huron and Marysville said K2 was off stores’ shelves before Snyder signed the legislation targeting synthetic cannabinoids and products sometimes referred to as bath salts.

Port Huron police Capt. Jeff Baker said police stopped by stores in the city in early June with letters asking businesses to not sell the substances. Baker said the stores police dealt with had removed synthetic marijuana from their shelves even before that time.

Baker said he’s not aware of any synthetic marijuana being sold in stores in the city. Public outcry against the drug likely pushed stores to comply voluntarily to stop selling the drug.

“I can’t speak of a store in town that refused to remove the K2,” Baker said. “… The public outcry was too much.”

Under Michigan’s new laws, anyone caught manufacturing, distributing or selling the substances can be charged with a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. For possession, the maximum sentence is two years. Anyone convicted of using synthetic marijuana could be hit with a misdemeanor that carries a possible one-year jail sentence.

The synthetic drugs known as K2, Spice and bath salts gained lawmakers’ attention after a string of incidents in southeast Michigan. K2 and Spice are blends of dried herbs sprayed with marijuana-like chemicals that people smoke to get high. So-called bath salts are synthetic chemical cousins of methamphetamine.

The St. Clair County Health Department issued an imminent danger order prohibiting the sale and distribution of synthetic drugs June 6 after protests outside a Port Huron gas station that previously had sold the products.

Baker said uniformed and plainclothes officers continue to do spot checks at stores in the area. Those checked have been in compliance with the law.

Sgt. Mat King with the St. Clair County Drug Task Force said undercover officers in his agency also have not found K2 or bath salts when they have attempted to buy the products at several county stores. He said the task force is continuing to enforce the law.

King said K2 had become a problem in the area. He said people were smoking it on the streets and while driving. Some smoked it because they were on probation and thought it wouldn’t pop up on a drug test. Those who normally smoked marijuana started smoking K2, and vice versa.

Some people officers have talked to also experienced withdrawal after not using the drug, King said.

Having K2 off stores’ shelves is a good thing, he said.

“It stops it from being readily available to people who may not otherwise have outlets to get drugs — especially young people,” King said.

Marysville Police Chief Tim Buelow said police are not aware of and have not had any reports of stores in Marysville selling synthetic marijuana. Staff members at one Marysville store, Smoker’s Only, told Buelow they had been carrying the substance but stopped selling it months ago because they became aware of its negative effects.

Chesterfield Township police Detective Sgt. Deron Myers said uniformed and undercover officers stopped by stores in the township early this week to check compliance with the law. A month or so ago, smoke shops and gas stations had synthetic marijuana prominently displayed on their windows and counters. Party stores also sold the product.

But now, there isn’t a trace of the substance in stores.

Myers said many business owners seemed relieved that they no longer have to decide whether to sell the product of lose out on profiting from it.

“They were relieved,” Myers said. “They know there was no good to come from it.”

He said the substance certainly isn’t gone from the streets of his township. People still want the drug and others want to profit off it, he said.

“We’re not ignorant,” Myers said. “It is most likely still out there, and there is someone as we speak trying to make money off of it.”

Synthetic drugs spreading rapidly across North Dakota

The first person who caught my eye when I entered Discontent skateboarding shop was a young boy, not more than 12 years old, standing on a wooden platform with an unstrapped helmet covering most of his dark, shaggy hair and a skateboard resting vertically at his side. Nearby, three teenagers with looks of extreme indifference on their faces fingered through CDs stacked on a small rack next to a skateboarding ramp. Then I noticed two women lingering near the back of the store with their hands in their jacket pockets waiting for a chance to get high.

The women, both appearing to be in their mid-30s, didn’t have to wait long. Within a few minutes, a man working behind the counter stepped away from the cash register and led them to a doorway with a chain hanging from one side to the other. He unhinged the chain, asked for their IDs and led them into a back room lined with mostly empty glass display cases.

(Photo by Matt Bunk) Herbal incense such as White Rabbit and New Dimension can be purchased in Bismarck, despite warnings by medical professionals and law enforcement leaders who say the effects of ingesting the chemicals on synthetic drugs can cause health problems and even death.

The women obviously knew what they wanted. They walked past two display cases, barely noticing the contents: a meager assortment of blown-glass pipes and small, metal objects shaped like cigarettes. Instead, they stopped in front of a case that contained several colorful packages labeled “New Dimension” and “White Rabbit.”

“One gram of the New Dimension,” one of the women said without looking up.

“That’s 20 bucks,” the employee said. “Or you can get three grams for $50.”

The woman shook her head, still looking down at the display case, before following the man to the counter to pay.

After the transaction, I followed the women out of the back room, past several racks holding an assortment of t-shirts, shoes and skateboards and, finally, past the young boy who was skidding down the skateboarding ramp to our left. When the door closed behind us, the women scurried along the sidewalk until they reached a car parked on the corner of Main Avenue an Fifth Street. Before they got in, I introduced myself and asked the woman what they bought.

“Herbal incense,” she said.

OK, but why would anyone pay $20 for a gram of incense?

“It gets you high,” she said. “And it’s not illegal.”

The New World of Synthetic Drugs

The synthetic drug market has exploded during the past four years, leading to many different chemical compounds and product names such as K2, Bliss, Tranquility, Spice, Wet and Wild and Eight Ballz. These new drugs are often sold as innocuous products such as herbal incense and bath salts and packaged with a label that warns against human consumption, but if ingested they mimic the effects of marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine and other controlled substances.

The packaging is also deceptive. Many of the products come in brightly colored wrappers that appear harmless.

“The packaging almost looks like candy wrappers,” said Hope Olson, director of the North Dakota Crime Lab. “It looks like something for kids.”

Merchants sell synthetic drugs online, and they can be found on the shelves of smoke shops, record stores and other retail establishments. Rogue chemists manufacture them in basements and warehouses across the U.S. and abroad. And for several years, the industry was allowed to grow without interference from law enforcement.

But using these new synthetic drugs has proven dangerous and potentially lethal, and state and federal lawmakers are scrambling to enact new laws to ban the chemicals used to manufacture them.

News reports from across the country tell horrific stories: In Mississippi, it took six men to restrain a man high on bath salts who had shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy; an 18-year-old Michigan resident was found dead along the shore of Wing Lake after smoking herbal incense; and two teenagers died and several more were hospitalized after a house party in Oklahoma where they ingested a synthetic drug that was purchased on the Internet.

The mayhem is spreading across North Dakota as well, according to medical professionals and law enforcement leaders.

Statistics compiled by the state Attorney General’s Office show the use of synthetic drugs has increased rapidly during the past two years. In 2010, for instance, law enforcement officers submitted 216 samples of synthetic cannabinoids (herbal incense) and synthetic cathinones (bath salts) to the state crime lab for analysis. A year later, that number had grown to 1,225 samples, outpacing the number of methamphetamine samples and second only to the number of marijuana samples.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said those numbers indicate a “brand new wave” of synthetic drugs are hitting the streets. “Law enforcement and the medical community are scrambling to get ahead of the curve on this,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous trend.”

A Looming Public Health Crisis

Doctors across North Dakota said they’ve treated patients with symptoms including extreme nausea, hallucinations, voices in their heads and seizures as a result of using synthetic drugs. One patient “sloughed off” an arm after injecting a synthetic drug, and another patient who smoked herbal incense stopped breathing and had to be kept on a respirator until the drug burned out of his system.

Rob Howard, a doctor in Williston who owns Advanced Drug Testing Inc., said synthetic drugs represent a looming public health crisis because there is no legitimate way to research the long-term effects of human consumption. Even the short-term effects are too dangerous for reputable scientists to conduct human studies, he said.

“One of side effects is chemically induced psychosis,” he said. “In other words, people start hearing things and seeing things that aren’t there. One individual we were testing was in here, and I asked him if they had stopped yet, and he said ‘Have what stopped?’ And I said ‘The voices.’ And his head snapped up and said ‘How did you know?’ This was about three weeks after he stopped using.”

Dr. Paul Grooms, who works in the emergency room at Medcenter One, said synthetic drugs such as herbal incense and bath salts are extremely dangerous because they usually contain a cocktail of different chemicals that could include anything from rat poison to fertilizer. He said cases involving synthetic drug use are difficult to treat because there are so many different chemical compounds used to manufacture them and patients usually have no idea what they ingested.

“Even very small amounts can have adverse effects,” Grooms said. “There’s no antidote for these things because so little is known about them. All we can do is treat the symptoms.”

In some cases, it’s too late for doctors to do anything. Last month, two teenagers from the Grand Forks area died after taking synthetic drugs. Seventeen-year old Elijah Stai of Park Rapids, Minn., and 18-year old Christian Bjerk of Grand Forks died within days of each other after taking a synthetic hallucinogen in the form of a white powder.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies launched an investigation into the deaths of the two teenagers and, within days, issued a warning to the public that noted “there may be a large quantity of lethal synthetic drugs on the street right now in the North Dakota/Minnesota market.”

So far, two men have been charged with crimes in connection with the distribution of the synthetic drugs that killed the teenagers.

Staying Ahead of Law Enforcement

The proliferation of synthetic drugs has confounded law enforcement agencies and policymakers ever since the first marijuana imitations reached the market about five years ago. So far, the industry has managed to stay one step ahead of each new law intended to stop it from spreading.

State legislatures in more than 40 states have passed various laws to ban the sale and possession of the chemical compounds used to make the new drugs, and Congress recently outlawed 26 chemicals known to be used for manufacturing K2 and Spice. But each time a law is passed, the synthetic drug industry develops a new formula and releases the product on the streets.

“The law enforcement community is constrained by statute. The law has to prescribe what is prohibited,” Stenehjem said. “And the big problem for us is that there are any number of bathroom chemists out there who are tweaking the chemicals to come up with a different substance. These are people who just throw stuff together and sell it to people. These drugs aren’t manufactured in controlled settings.”

The North Dakota Legislature originally attacked the problem by banning the chemical compounds used to make specific types of synthetic drugs. But the industry was able to stay one step ahead by making slight molecular changes to the products. So, state lawmakers tried a different approach last year by banning the core structure of the chemicals so that any offshoots, or “chemical cousins,” would also be illegal.

But the problem is far from solved, said Charlene Schweitzer, a forensic scientist at the North Dakota Crime Lab.

“We defined the core structure of these groups and, if you look at the statute, basically made hundreds of compounds illegal,” she said. “But now the problem is there are new groups of compounds that we have yet to define. The chemistry changes so fast with these things. Every week, we’re seeing a new compound.”

Howard, the doctor in Williston, said his drug-testing company recently spent about $300,000 on equipment that can be adjusted to detect new chemical compounds that hit the market. But detecting synthetic drugs and stopping them from reaching the public are two completely different challenges, he said.

“By changing the molecular structure in just one position on the chain, you can come up with 10,000 different chemicals that have the same active backbone. And if you change two or more positions, you could create millions of different chemicals,” he said. “That’s what’s going to make this so difficult.”

-Matt Bunk is publisher of the Great Plains Examiner.

Fake Pot Is A Real Problem For Regulators

A screengrab from the Mr. Nice Guy site shows the company's products, including Relaxinol, which was blamed for contributing to an accidental death.

EnlargeNPRA screengrab from the Mr. Nice Guy site shows the company’s products, including Relaxinol, which was blamed for contributing to an accidental death.

This week, President Obama signed a law banning synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs. Dozens of states and local governments have already tried to outlaw fake marijuana, which has been blamed for hundreds of emergency room visits and a handful of fatalities.

But the bans have proved largely ineffective, and there are fears that the federal law won’t be any different.

Synthetic marijuana looks a bit like dried grass clippings. It’s readily available on the Internet and in convenience stores and smoke shops, where it’s sold as herbal incense or potpourri.

A Stand-In For Marijuana

At roughly $20 a gram, it’s unlikely that many buyers are using synthetic marijuana to freshen up the powder room. Most are smoking it as a substitute for real marijuana.

That’s what Aaron Stinson was doing last September.

“This is an actual packet that I found in his belongings, in his bedroom,” says his mother, Deirdre Canaday, as she holds up a small, shiny package.

The product is called Relaxinol — which, the label promises, can relieve “unwanted state of mind.” Canaday found the packet in Stinson’s apartment last year, shortly after he died in his sleep at a friend’s house in upstate New York.

“He had smoked a spice potpourri product called Mr. Nice Guy Relaxinol,” Canaday says. “And he went to sleep. And in the morning, about 9:30 a.m., his two friends woke up. But Aaron — they found him totally unresponsive, not breathing, no pulse.”

Canaday admits her son had a history of using drugs, specifically marijuana. But she says Stinson, who was 26, was getting his act together. He had a good job as a home health care aide. Canaday thinks Stinson was using synthetic marijuana that night for the same reason many people do: He was worried about passing a drug test for his job, and he knew that synthetic marijuana was not likely to show up.

“I think that my son, the only thing he did wrong was to be naive,” Canaday says, “to believe this stuff that’s packaged was all natural and safe, and a good alternative to something that was illegal — because it’s not.”

The pathologist determined the cause of Stinson’s death to be “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of ethanol (from alcohol consumption) and Relaxinol.” No charges were ever filed; the company that makes Relaxinol did not respond to requests for an interview.

Drugs Bring Side Effects And Uncertainty

There are no clinical studies about the health effects of synthetic marijuana. But anecdotally, health care providers report a long list of nasty side effects, from agitation and paranoia to intense hallucinations and psychosis.

Christine Stork, the clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Control Center, says that she’s seen a steady stream of synthetic marijuana users turn up in emergency rooms over the past few years.

Deirdre Canaday says that the people who sell synthetic marijuana are "worse than the drug dealers on the street."

EnlargeJoel Rose/NPRDeirdre Canaday says that the people who sell synthetic marijuana are “worse than the drug dealers on the street.”

“They’re expecting a marijuana experience and pretty soon, they realize they’re not getting their usual experience,” she says. “They can be quite agitated. They can be quite paranoid. They require drugs to sedate them and may have seizures, which are pretty severe.”

Stork says synthetic marijuana can be 20 times as potent as real marijuana. But it’s hard to predict the strength of any particular brand or packet — in part because it’s remarkably easy for anyone to make and package synthetic marijuana without any oversight or regulation.

Video Tutorials In Drug Making

In a video posted on YouTube, an unidentified man shows how it’s done, using damiana, a Mexican shrub, as the base. All you need is some legal plant material and some chemical powders that can be easily ordered from overseas labs.

“Anybody with a working knowledge of chemistry, or that can follow a simple set of directions, can obtain and mix these substances and create these compounds,” says James Burns, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in upstate New York.

Most states have already moved to ban some synthetic cannabinoids — the chemical compounds that are the key ingredient in synthetic marijuana. But Burns says it’s not that simple.

“You have people that are very good with chemistry, that continue to manipulate the molecular structure of these substances,” he says. “So that they are creating analogues, or substances that are similar to those that have been banned.”

The result is a big game of cat and mouse. The government outlaws a certain compound or family of compounds. But then producers tweak the chemical formula of their products to skirt the law.

A $5 Billion Market

Despite a slew of federal, state and local bans, sales in the synthetic drug industry seem to be growing — to roughly $5 billion a year, according to Rick Broider, president of the North American Herbal Incense Trade Association.

“You can’t stop the market,” he says. “You know, there’s no piece of legislation that’s going to stop market demand.”

Broider runs a company called Liberty Herbal Incense in New Hampshire, which he says recently changed its chemical formulas to keep its products legal. He insists his industry’s products are not for human consumption, though he concedes that some people may be misusing the product by smoking it.

“We’re aware that there are a number of people who do choose to misuse our products for their euphoric effect. We do not support that at all,” Broider says. “If you’re going to misuse a product, you’re basically incurring a large risk to yourself. But our question is, don’t Americans have the right to assume their own personal risk?”

Would Broider allow his children to smoke herbal incense or synthetic marijuana products?

“You know, if my children are under 18 years old, I would not allow them to do anything that I wouldn’t deem appropriate to be doing under 18 years old,” he says. “When they’re over 18 years old, I would see it no differently than alcohol or tobacco, which are two products that have been proven to be addictive and have have proven to have negative health consequences.”

That argument doesn’t convince Canaday, who blames her son’s death on a different brand of synthetic marijuana.

“I would say they’re cowards,” she says of manufacturers like Broider. “I would say they’re absolute cowards. And worse than the drug dealers on the street that sell illicit drugs.”

A New Federal Law

So far, law enforcement officials have been mostly stymied in their efforts to treat synthetic drugs makers like conventional drug dealers. This week, President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012. It will mean tougher criminal penalties for selling some first-generation synthetic cannabinoids and many newer ones as well.

The new law should help, says Burns of the DEA.

“If we can make the bad guys react to what we’re doing instead of us reacting to what the bad guys are doing, then I think that’ll help us get a better handle on this issue,” he says.

But others worry that the new federal law is already obsolete.

“It’ll help in some regards, that these things need to be listed and controlled. And there’ll be no more discussion about, ‘I didn’t know,’ ” says Anthony Tambasco, a forensic scientist in Mansfield, Ohio. “But you’ll have, again, new compounds coming through the door that we’ll have to deal with.

As soon as Ohio outlawed a number of synthetic cannabinoids last year, Tambasco says, he started to see new compounds in local stores. And he expects drug makers will react just as quickly to the new federal ban.

“They already are. They’re already out in front of it. They’re already on their next batch,” he says.

When we spoke last week, Tambaso said there were already three synthetic cannabinoid samples he’d never seen before waiting for him in the lab.