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Lawmakers target production, sales of synthetic marijuana

Varieties of synthetic marijuana
N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs
Varieties of synthetic marijuana

Michigan lawmakers are making another attempt to outlaw sales of over-the-counter synthetic marijuana.

The drug is sometimes labeled as incense or potpourri  and is sold under a variety of names at convenience stores and other small shops.

The distributors often change the chemical contents or packaging to skirt current laws.

A sweeping Senate bill targets the artificial pot  and a host of other possible additives, including opiates and amphetamines.

Dr. Norb Kaminski is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.

He doesn't think there's enough manpower to monitor the content of the products.

"You would have to do a chemical analysis of the material to know what the compound really is," Kaminski says. "That's going to be a huge problem and burden."

Dr. Susan Smolinske manages the Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital of Michigan. She says unlike regular marijuana, synthetic marijuana can cause seizures, hallucinations, rapid heartbeat and aggression. Smolinske says a 21-year-old user suffered a stroke. She also says it's unknown if the drug can cause permanent brain damage because studies have not yet been done on most of the synthetic marijuana.

Smolinske says 166 cases have been reported to the Poison Control Center so far this year, primarily from hospitals. That compares to a total of 159 calls in 2011. Most of the cases involved teenagers, but Smolinske says the scope of the problem is likely underreported.