Synthetic marijuana, also known as spice, has become more of a scourge on Louisiana than even cocaine, according to state health officials. “It’s not a drug. This is a poison,” said East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, Dr. Beau Clark. “It’s some kind of synthetically made chemical that can be anything.”

State officials say that even with synthetic pot being illegal, they are concerned that more people than ever have started using this dangerous substance under the impression that it is safe. However, the Louisiana Poison Control Center says there is nothing safe about it --- reporting a heavy increase in distress calls as the result of smoking synthetic weed. Even veterans organizations say they have experienced an influx in synthetic marijuana use among young soldiers.

That being said, it should come as no surprise that emergency rooms across the state have been seeing more patients for physical and mental problems stemming from the use of synthetic marijuana, including brain hemorrhages and psychosis.

Although synthetic marijuana is supposed to simulate the effects of actual marijuana, because it is a man made chemical basically sprayed on lawn clippings, the results of its use can be unpredictable and dangerous.

Synthetic marijuana may be illegal, but many manufacturers get around the risk of prosecution by designing variations of the substance, which is the reason new products are constantly being marketed.

“There are over 100 of these synthetic cannabinoids right now. We are still chasing our tail. It’s not a drip. It’s still a stream of these things coming out,” Dr. Mark Ryan, executive director of the Poison Control Center told The New Orleans Advocate. “They (chemical labs overseas) are altering molecules, chemical structure. “You really don’t know what you are going to get. You could make a monster. ... It’s never been tested on rats, never been tested on anything, he added.