SIOUX FALLS, SD -
It looks like pot and some say smells like pot and can give a person the same kind of high. But synthetic marijuana is not illegal to buy in South Dakota. Not yet anyway.
Lawmakers are considering a bill
that would make dozens of potentially dangerous substances, like synthetic marijuana, illegal. But getting to the root of this problem is like a lesson in chemistry.
Fake weed products are legal to buy in South Dakota because they're being sold as potpourri or incense. But police say they're being used to get high.
"In Sioux Falls in the last year, we've seen a great increase in the use of this," Captain Greg VandeKamp of the Sioux Falls Police Department said.
VandeKamp testified in front of lawmakers on Monday. He says this school year, Sioux Falls police have dealt with 21 cases of kids using synthetic drugs.
He is among a group that is pushing for a bill that will make it illegal to buy these products. But authorities say the industry is tough to control because chemists keep tweaking the ingredients.
"Now with the internet and the global chemical market, it's just so easy to keep changing slightly the chemical compound of these. They keep coming up with new designer drugs where you banned one, they slightly modify it. You basically have the same drug with the same physical properties, the same effects on your body, but you end up with a compound that's not banned, VandeKamp said.
Other states like Nebraska and North Carolina have passed similar legislation that gets to the root of the problem, going after the main ingredient in each of these synthetic products.
"What we're trying to do is come up with a way to ban the root chemical compound so that all the analogues that come off of that would be illegal as well," VandeKamp said.
In the fake pot, the root chemical is cannabinoids. In the bath salt, it's cathinones. But even that might not stop this new highly addictive trend.
"That's the million dollars question is will this control all of it? No, but it'll control these and then eventually there will be others that come up, but I applaud them for taking this bill on," VandeKamp said.
A committee is set to vote on the bill Wednesday.
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