The synthetic form of marijuana, called spice or K2, is legal in most states across the country. But the growing popularity of the drug is leading to action. Missouri recently became the sixth state to ban the use and sale of K2.
The drug has a high similar to marijuana. Nationwide, more than 500 people have called poison centers about the drug this year, up from only 12 calls last year.
"We started seeing a mushrooming of calls," said Dr. Gaylor Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center.
The synthetic marijuana is highly addictive and drug treatment centers are seeing an increase in those struggling with an addiction to it, often in combination with other drugs. It is packaged in brightly colored bags and marketed to appear harmless.
"This is incredibly dangerous," Lopez said.
According to Lopez, K2 can be up to 15 times more powerful than marijuana and lead to a disturbing range of symptoms.
"We’ve seen people with slight tremors to even seizure activity," said Lopez.
Despite the risks, K2 is legal in 44 states and easily accessible in stores and on the Internet. The six states banning the drug are Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Missouri. The states considering bans of the drug are Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.
The drug is not detected by urine drug tests.
"It’s like a dream come true for an addict," said Jason Schmider. Schmider tried K2 more than 50 times until he ended up in the hospital.
"That was the final straw," he said. Schmider then entered Phoeniz House, a drug treatment center located near New York City.
K2 is of concern for the Drug Enforcement Administration. They are testing to see what exactly is in the drug itself and what makes its use so alluring to addicts.
"They’ll market it as incense, or bath salts," said DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs.
Tests are part of deciding whether or not the drug should be classified as a controlled substance. That move would mean strict regulation and make purchasing K2 more difficult for addicts.
"The fact that they’re legal really is almost irrelevant," said Boggs. "People are just basically playing Russian roulette with these every time they take them.
That chance means months of rehabilitation at a drug treatment center for Schmider.
"It was like the scariest moment of my life," said Schmider. "It’s not worth it."
But the allure of the drug is hard to contain. It is a powerful high that is legal, easily accessible and hard to detect.