ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state has banned the sale of "synthetic marijuana" that's sold in convenience stores, smoke shops and tobacco stores under brand names including "Spice," "K2" and "Mr. Nice Guy."
The products produce a high when smoked and have been linked to severe adverse reactions including death and acute renal failure. In announcing the ban, Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said they also commonly cause increased heart rates, paranoid behavior, agitation, and nausea, among other symptoms.
The plant material in the products is coated with chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The order issued Thursday calls for sales and distribution to stop immediately. Local health officials will distribute details of the ban to stores and will be tasked with checking for compliance.
Shah said calls to state poison control centers related to the synthetics increased to 105 since the beginning of 2011, compared to four in 2009 and 2010 combined. More than half the calls involved people under the age of 19. He said national poison control centers have received about 8,000 calls since 2011.
Violators will be referred to the state's attorney general for prosecution and civil penalties would be set by a judge.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is backing a Senate bill that bans the sale of synthetic marijuana but that has been stalled by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who says bans should be implemented by state and local authorities.
New York "did the right thing enacting a state ban on this noxious product," Schumer said Thursday. "We are working very hard to establish a federal ban so that kids seeking out these dangerous drugs can't simply hop in a car and cross state borders to get a deadly high."