Fake Pot Case May Head to Court

Thursday, Oct 21, 2010  |  Updated 2:32 PM CDT
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Synthetic Marijuana-Not Only Is It Legal It Could Be Dangerous To Your Health

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Types of incense which are often smoked for a high.

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Synthetic Marijuana-Not Only Is It Legal It Could Be Dangerous To Your Health

This imitation marijuana is sold under brand names such as K2, So-Cal Spice and Hawaiian Haze. It's being sold legally in smoke shops but health experts say it's harmful and should be considered a controlled substance
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A convenience store manager cited last week for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana in Valparaiso, Ind., has hired an attorney and seems prepared to fight.

"Those two products [K2 and Spice], I've never actually brought them into my store," Karam Awawda said. "The K2 is the worst incense they came out with," agreeing with the city's worry that it can kill.

However, he said, the product he sold to the police informant was King Krypto Select, a dried herb labeled as a potpourri and treated with a different chemical than those the city of Valparaiso and Porter County, Ind., banned the sale of last month. It sells for $15 per gram.

Awawda said the owner of the Clark station at 1703 N. Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso allows him to decide what products to stock, and he did the research and has proof King Krypto Select is not illegal.

"Come to me, I give you the lab report," he said.

The banned products can provide a high up to 10 times stronger than marijuana's, Valparaiso City Councilman Bob Taylor said when pushing the city to make the ban. He also promised to send undercover buyers to enforce the ordinance, which is how Clark was targeted. Violators can face a $1,000 fine.

Awawda, however, maintains the herbs he sold do not have a similar effect.

"It's not going to do anything to the extent [of marijuana]." He described the sensation as a relaxed feeling, similar to a smoker's first cigarette of the morning.

He still has pouches of the product behind the counter, along with rolling papers and other smoking paraphernalia, but he said he is no longer selling the potpourri.

He feels the city made a mistake in enacting the ordinance banning the sale, however, and it will only reduce taxes paid on the products.

An Internet search quickly showed that anyone with a credit card or Pay Pal account can order various brands online, or even find recipes. While the recipes are not dangerous to prepare, unlike with meth cooking that can cause explosions, they note that it can be difficult to regulate the concentration of the active ingredients, leading to potentially dangerous "hot spots" when smoked.

Indiana is expected to ban the possession and use of synthetic marijuana when the state Legislature reconvenes in January.

But laws and testing methods are not keeping pace with manufacturers.

"What the manufacturers are doing ... is they'll change the formula," said Porter County Sheriff David Lain, so the latest brands will not technically be illegal.

"I don't think that an answer has been found," Lain said. "We are dealing with people who are out to make money."

This does not necessarily mean users can avoid criminal penalties.

Drivers can face charges of intoxicated driving even while using legal prescriptions or, as Lain used as an example, when they've been drinking alcohol but have not reached the 0.08 percent marker.

"If impairment can be shown, they still can be charged and convicted," he said.

As far as he's aware, however, synthetic marijuana has not yet been tested in courts anywhere in the nation.

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