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Feds seek to ban five chemicals in synthetic marijuana

WASHINGTON - Cracking down on fake pot, the government began emergency action yesterday to outlaw five chemicals used in herbal blends to make synthetic marijuana. They're sold in drug paraphernalia shops and on the Internet to a burgeoning market of teens and young adults.

The Drug Enforcement Administration responded to the latest designer drug fad by launching a 30-day process to put these chemicals in the same drug category as heroin and cocaine.

The agency acted after receiving increasing numbers of bad reports - including seizures, hallucinations and dependency - from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement.

It was the fastest action the agency could take to get these products off the legal market. DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said makers of fake pot blends like "Spice," "K2," "Blaze," and "Red X Dawn" label the mixtures as incense to try to hide their intended purpose.

Meantime, there were indications the producers were already moving to reformulate their products using chemicals not covered by the impending ban.

The fake pot - smokable plant leaves coated with chemicals - has been the target of lawmakers and law enforcement around the country. At least 15 states have moved to regulate or ban one or more of the chemicals, as have some European countries.

As of Sept. 27, the American Association of Poison Control Centers had reported receiving more than 1,500 calls from 48 states and the District of Columbia about products spiked with these drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said that with youth drug use rising, "it is critical that parents act today to talk to young people about the harms of drug use, including synthetic marijuana products like Spice and K2 that are marketed as 'incense.' "

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