New Hampshire Declares State of Emergency over Synthetic Marijuana

SAN FRANCISCO - JULY 25: Staarla Heaney smokes a marijuana cigarette at the San Francisco Patients Cooperative, a medical cannabis cooperative, July 25, 2002 in San Francisco, California. A San Francisco city supervisor has drafted a proposal allowing voters in San Francisco to decide whether the city should consider getting into the marijuana growing business. Supervisor Mark Leno said he drafted the proposal because the Drug Enforcement Administration remains determined to close down clubs that distribute medical marijuana in San Francisco and other parts of California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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New England has a drug problem – but it's not the kind you think. Synthetic marijuana caused a state of emergency in New Hampshire this week after dozens of people overdosed on one brand of the drug. The 44 overdoses — none of which was lethal — were apparently enough to merit an official response at the state level. In a press release, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan announced, "These products pose a serious threat to public health, especially to young people, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to combat the recent rash of overdoses."

But an emergency declaration isn't just a fancy excuse to freak people out about the Great Drug Menace. It actually gave police the authority to track down the synthetic pot that's caused all the problems and deal with it as necessary, which in this case means investigating stores and confiscating and quarantining what supply they find. The overdoses were mostly reported in and around Manchester, and at least three stores have had their business licenses revoked for selling the sketchy faux-weed.

The product in question is called Smacked and is sold at gas stations and other reputable establishments in the "potpourri" section. (Riiiiiight. Just like those "neck massagers" by the checkout at Walgreens.) The basic product is technically close enough to potpourri to blend into the other dried plants that sit next to it on the shelf, only Smacked has the bonus of being sprayed with synthetic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. According to Reuters, authorities are especially worried about the drug's "bubblegum flavor." That concern is probably about its appeal to young people, but one can't help but think that officials are right to be concerned about any non-gum product boasting such a flavor.

The emergency order, though, extends only to Bubblegum Smacked, so police can't seize other types of synthetic weed unless another state of emergency is declared targeting a different type of commercially available, suspiciously flavored bag of dried plants. In fact, New Hampshire is one of the few states left that doesn't have a ban on the stuff — which is a type of law that grows more important as more places aim to legalize the real thing. To make things easier next time, though, state legislators are trying to figure out how to write a bill prohibiting such products — which is a doubly good idea when you take into consideration that the ingredients of synthetic weed change pretty much constantly in order to fly under the radar. This is a buzzkill most people will probably be OK with.

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