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State ban on new synthetic pot could be tricky

Dozens of people are showing up in Louisiana emergency rooms after suffering respiratory problems and panic attacks associated with the latest form of synthetic marijuana.

The state has just banned it, but the problem is a moving target. It is considered to be the fifth generation of synthetic marijuana,

"Panic attacks, heart racing, heart palpitations, shakiness, odd behaviors like biting their fingernails, pulling out their hair," said Amanda Walker, with the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Louisiana has now banned the latest chemical used to make fake pot, a substance called "mab chminaca"'

"They are these chemicals people make, made synthetically in a lab, and they are not supposed to be for human consumption," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry with the state health department.

The new ban was put in place this week after 125 patients showed up in Baton Rouge in October. Lafayette saw 20 patients in the last 24 hours.

"We're trying to stay ahead of this chemical industry that's pushing it to our young people, that's taking chances with their lives," said Guidry.

While the ban may provide temporary relief here at local emergency rooms, people who work with drug abusers say the ban has two things working against it. First, mab chminaca is readily available online.

"I think there are some controls, but they can change their website, and you don't know who's running it," said Walker.

And even if websites are eliminated, chemists are already busy at work.

"As we ban these drugs, companies change the molecular structure, and go to something else," said State Police Commander Mike Edmonson.

The new compound could be even more dangerous than "Mojo," which was banned three years ago after scaring many parents.

"Immediately he had an unbelievable reaction," said one parent, speaking about his child's overdose. "He kept screaming out for two hours, 'I feel like I'm dying, don't let me die.'"

The Mojo ban appears to have worked.

"Most gas stations and shops - you don't see them anymore," said Walker.

Cracking down on the new synthetic will be difficult, but officials believe the new ban is a step in the right direction. Anyone caught manufacturing, distributing or possessing synthetic marijuana could get jail time of up to 50 years behind bars.

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