State issues new ban on synthetic marijuana

NEW ORLEANS -- There's a new form of synthetic marijuana on the streets, and for some who have used it, the consequences have been deadly.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has added several new varieties to the list of banned synthetic drugs, but drug makers are still finding loopholes to get the drugs back on store shelves.

"Basically what they are, are street corner drug dealers that are doing it with a roof over their head" said Assistant District Attorney in Jefferson Parish Doug Freese.

Governor Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals have banned several new synthetic marijuana compounds named Mojo and Blue Diemond.

"I think people are fooled into thinking that it's going to have all of the same effects as a marijuana cigarette," said Dr. Peter Winsauer with the LSU Health Sciences Center.

Winsauer went on to explain that the designer drugs have been linked to several recent deaths and numerous hospitalizations in Louisiana hospitals.

"They take it and suddenly their heart is racing, they feel very anxious, they're agitated, they act out, they do something bizarre. Then they end up in the emergency room," Winsauer said.

That often comes with suicidal thoughts.

The ban comes after DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert consulted with Louisiana poison control. According to poison control, they have received more than 17,000 calls related to synthetic marijuana.

Law enforcement and health officials say one of the biggest misconceptions is that just because it's sold in a store on a shelf, it doesn't make it safe or legal.

"You had school students doing it, folks who work regular jobs coming in thinking they were buying something that would give them a high and that they're not breaking the law," Freese said.

Freese said they had 98 stores in 2012 that sold versions of the synthetic drugs. After years of targeted crackdowns, they have zero.

"If it's something that mimics marijuana, it's as illegal as marijuana. If it's something that mimics LSD, it's just as illegal as LSD," Freese said.

But every time the government bans one substance, drug makers tweak and change their formulas, finding loopholes to get the drugs back on shelves.

"They don't know what they're making, and it can be attached with all kinds of impurities, and once those impurities get into the brain, the brains going to respond to it in a negative way," Winsauer said.