North Georgia police confiscated thousands of packets of synthetic marijuana last week, and authorities are hoping the state will outlaw the drug altogether.
While state lawmakers banned fake marijuana or spices -- also known as K2 -- in 2010, manufacturers adapted to the outlawed ingredients and began making a new type of synthetic marijuana that can be sold legally in convenience stores, officials said.
That makes it difficult to regulate the so-called legal drugs, Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force Deputy Cmdr. Patrick Doyle said.
"There's no control over it," he said. "Every bit of it needs to be controlled."
Last week, Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force agents tested packets they bought undercover from a LaFayette, Ga., convenience store and found ingredients that already are illegal in Georgia, Doyle said.
The packets are flavored as bubble gum, blueberry and strawberry and have a disclaimer that says no illegal ingredients are used in them. But the tests showed otherwise, Doyle said.
Agents collected more than 19,000 packets of synthetic marijuana at a North Georgia warehouse to test for illegal ingredients, he said.
No one has been arrested, but authorities said they are investigating different groups.
Local lawmakers say regulating synthetic drugs is a challenge, but in this year's upcoming legislative session they hope to ban them in all forms.
State Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, said he is working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to write language into a bill that would outlaw all types of synthetic marijuana.
"This will take care of it in the long term," he said.
Last year, Neal said, he added more ingredients to the bill passed in 2010, but the manufacturers just adapted and found new ingredients that mimic marijuana.
Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force agents -- who investigate illegal drugs in Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties -- went undercover to buy the packets after local school officials told authorities a teenager had been hospitalized after using them, Doyle said.
Many teenagers and even parents don't realize how dangerous the "spices" can be because no one knows what all the ingredients are, he said.
Joy Lukachick is a crime reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing down ...