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Synthetic marijuana still illegal to purchase in Florida

The development of new synthetic "designer" drugs intended to mimic the hallucinogenic effects of marijuana is taking on an increasingly cat-and-mouse quality between manufacturers of synthetic marijuana and law enforcement in Florida. Purchasers of the drug, which is known by the street names of "spice" and "K2," may be unaware that it is illegal to do so.

Ignorance of its illegality was the claim made earlier in August by a man in Clewiston, Florida, whom police arrested after they found him in possession of a bag of synthetic marijuana. He told the arresting officers that he had bought the substance from a Fort Myers smoke shop, but he was also apparently unaware of the general rule that ignorance of the law is no defense to a criminal charge.

The makers of synthetic marijuana often try to imitate not only its effects as a drug but also its appearance. The manufacture frequently involves applying chemicals that have been banned by federal law since 2012 to herbs or other green leafy substances which can be smoked or eaten inducing the effects of real marijuana.

Like any imitation, however, synthetic marijuana may not be a precise substitute. While some users have claimed that it produces the same perceived effects as marijuana, the chemicals used in the synthetic product are often more potent than the effective ingredient of marijuana and, in one recent year, led to more than 10,000 emergency room visits.

While federal restrictions have made the once legal purchase of synthetic marijuana illegal for the time being, manufacturers of the synthetic substance may be seeking substitutes for the banned chemicals to get around the federal prohibition. Thus, the confusion as to whether it is legal to purchase the substance may remain an issue for sellers, purchasers, law enforcement and the legal system.

Source: The Clewiston News, " How legal is fake pot? Clewiston man arrested on synthetic marijuana charges claimed he didn't know the substance was illegal," Melissa Beltz, Aug. 19, 2014

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