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Louisiana goes to battle with synthetic marijuana

Like other states, Louisiana has tried to outlaw synthetic marijuana. The man-made drug is known by many names, including potpourri, aromatic sachet, incense, spice and K2, among others. The state has classified the drug as a Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substance, but since the drug is synthetic, producers only have to tweak the recipe slightly to make it legal again.

The colorful packages, which are sold at tobacco shops and convenience stores, often have disclaimers on them that suggest the contents are not for human consumption. Some municipalities, such as Caddo Parish, Louisiana, are considering proposals to outlaw any and all synthetic hallucinogens and cannabinoids. If Caddo officials elect to approve the proposal, the offense will be a misdemeanor with a potential maximum punishment of a $500 fine and six months in jail. It was unclear whether this punishment was for the selling or possessing of such products.

The Louisiana state legislature recently passed Act 347 which gives the state Department of Health and Hospitals the ability to issue a stop order on dangerous substances without waiting for the next legislative session. This means that though the drug can be made legal again quickly after being banned; it can be banned again just as fast.

The director of the Louisiana Poison Control said that the drug's common name, synthetic marijuana, is a misnomer. A euphoric stimulant effect is produced by potpourri but this is not because of THC, the compound found in marijuana. There is no THC in spice or synthetic marijuana and quality control is not a concern of its producers. According to the director, some packages of the drug had large quantities of the synthetic stimulant in them while others had little or none.

With state and federal drug laws constantly changing, it can be difficult for store owners and consumers to avoid getting caught up in the legality, or illegality of selling or possessing such items with innocuous names like potpourri or incense. A criminal defense attorney may be required to assist a store owner in understanding his or her rights to sell such items and defend against questionable allegations of drug distribution or trafficking in recently banned substances.

Source: Shreveport Times, "Fake pot, real trouble," Kristi Johnston, June 18, 2012

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