New York State’s Health Commissioner,  Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., has issued an order of summary action banning the sale of synthetic marijuana products in New York State. The March 29, 2012 order followed a March 23, 2012 alert to emergency departments, county health officials, and health care providers throughout New York State warning of an emerging threat to public health associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids.

Synthetic cannabinoids, known more commonly as “synthetic marijuana,” consist of plant material coated by chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Until now they’ve been sold legally as incense, but they’re often smoked for their marijuana-like effect. The products are sold as incense, herbal mixtures or potpourri, online and in convenience or smoke shops, and often carry a “not for human consumption” label in order to disguise their true purpose. Various formulations are being sold under names such as: K2, Spice, Blonde, Summit, Standard, Blaze, Red Dawn X, and Citron.

While they have some effects that are similar to marijuana, they have toxic effects that are really unknown, according to New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, in an interview on March 29, 2012 with WNYC News. WNYC reports that the NYC’s Poison Control Center received four calls related to synthetic marijuana in 2010, 71 calls in 2011, and 44 calls in the first three months of 2012 and that people smoking the substance typically experience chest pains, palpitations, high levels of anxiety, and feelings of losing self-control.

Due to the imminent threat to the public safety, the Drug Enforcement Administration used its emergency powers to render these substances illegal for sale by making them Schedule I controlled substances.

For more information, go to the New York State Department of health website at