The so-called "synthetic marijuana" products that produce a high when smoked have been outlawed by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Strongsville police are cracking down on local shops that sell the items.
Up till recently, it has been legal to purchase products like Spice and K2, which are often marketed as "herbal incense."
But Police Chief Charles Goss said the DEA put out an order March 1 that makes the items Schedule I narcotics, in the same league as heroin.
"Kids buy it and smoke it -- it's supposed to give them a high like marijuana," Goss said.
But what actually produces the high, Goss said, isn't the vegetable matter they are rolling into cigarettes, but chemicals the plants are treated with.
Those five chemicals have now been identified by the DEA. While a few states have already made the chemicals illegal, the DEA has the authority to impose a one-year ban on them nationwide.
Goss said the products have been sold locally at several places, including Twilight Boutique, 11025 Prospect Rd. Once the DEA issued the order, officers visited the shop, located at the corner of Albion Road, to make sure employees there were aware of the ban.
Sean Lightner, owner of Twilight Boutique, said he was aware of the DEA's pending action on Nov. 24, when a statement was originally released.
"We had it completely out of our store by Dec. 24," he said.
Lightner said he did not sell the items for people to smoke, but said he cannot control what people do with products once they take them home.
"It says on every container, 'Not for human consumption,'" he said.
According to the DEA website, smokeable herbal products marketed as being legal have become popular in the last year or two. They consist of plant material "coated with research chemicals that claim to mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet.
"These chemicals, however, have not been approved by the FDA for human consumption, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process," the DEA says.
Brands such as Spice, K2, Blaze, and Red X Dawn are labeled as herbal incense to mask their intended purpose, the site said.
Since 2009, there have been an increasing number of reports from poison control centers and hospitals about the fake pot. While states consider legislation to control the products, the DEA has used its power to place a substance temporarily in Schedule I "when it is necessary to avoid an imminent threat to the public safety."
The DEA said side effects from using the products include convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting and disorientation.
“Young people are being harmed when they smoke these dangerous ‘fake pot’ products and wrongly equate the products' ‘legal’ retail availability with being ‘safe’,” DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said on the website.