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Pol calls for New York ban of synthetic marijuana

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Synthetic marijuana - sometimes called Spice, K2 or Blaze - could be banned in the Big Apple following reports of health risks and even deaths.

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) announced Wednesday that he's introducing a bill in a couple of weeks to block the sale of synthetic pot and enable the NYPD to bust people for it.

The synthetic substance, which is smoked just like pot and contains cannabis-like chemicals, is sold in city corner stores.

"We need to act in New York City now to protect our own children," Vallone told amNewYork. He plans to hold a hearing on fake pot, including the plant salvia.

Suffolk County recently banned synthetic marijuana. And on the federal level, the House in December passed a bill - called the David Mitchell Rozga Act - banning it, but the Senate has yet to approve it.

The bill is named after an Iowa teen who in 2010 reportedly smoked K2 and suffered hallucinations before committing suicide. Other side effects of the designer drug reportedly include seizures, fast heart rates and violent behavior.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration extended its ban this month of five chemicals found in synthetic pot, although that has not curbed its use. Manufacturers are using alternative chemicals instead.

And the designer drugs are still reaching kids. One in nine high school seniors have tried synthetic pot, according to a National Institutes of Health survey last year, the second most used illegal drug for that group behind actual marijuana.

Meanwhile, poison control centers nationwide have fielded 4,500 calls from synthetic pot from 2010 to 2011, the Pediatrics journal reported Monday.

"Because it's unregulated, we don't know exactly what's in it," said author Dr. Joanna Cohen.

Several corner stores and gift shops contacted by amNewYork said they were no longer selling synthetic drugs. One shop on Sixth Avenue said Wednesday it pulled the packets last week.

(with Reuters)

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Synthetic Pot

- First went on sale in early 2000s
- Price: $15 - $75 a packet
- Best know brands: Genie, K2, Skunk, Spice, Ultra Chronic
- Appearance: A mixture of dried leaves of various colors (green, brown, blonde, red) and sold in two to three inch foil or zip lock packets
- Taste: Harsh and bitter
- Illegal in Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oregon
- Short-term effects: Provides a similar but shorter-lived high than marijuana
- Long-term effects are currently unknown
- Side effects: anxiety, convulsions hallucinations, high blood pressure, palpitations, profuse sweating, seizures, panic attacks, paranoia and violent behavior 

(amNY)

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