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Published January 03, 2011, 09:22 PM

Minnesota Schools Target Synthetic Marijuana

A substance known for producing the effects of marijuana has been making headlines in Minnesota. Now the state's schools are paying attention to synthetic marijuana.

A substance known for producing the effects of marijuana has been making headlines in Minnesota.

Now the state's schools are paying attention to synthetic marijuana.

"There's been lots of questions and concerns," said David Pace, superintendent of East Grand Forks Public Schools.

Since it not actually marijuana, defining it as a drug can be tricky.

"Is it a controlled substance? Legally, does it fit that classification?" Paced asked.

Synthetic marijuana is an herbal blend sold as incense, and is sprayed with a synthetic THC, the active hallucinogen in marijuana.

According to Minnesota school officials, students are using it because it is still legal and has not had as much attention as illegal drugs.

"Looking at the policy in East Grand Forks, we name some specific narcotics but we also list look-a-likes, mood-altering drugs," said Pace.

By having a broad policy like at East Grand Forks High School, consequences like suspension and expulsion are easier to enforce since the recipe for synthetic marijuana constantly changes.

"If we're continually going to have a rock-solid policy that is going to be drug A, B and C, a slight modification in the drug could throw that out," Pace said.

In September, the East Grand Forks City Council voted to recommend the Minnesota State Legislature ban the substance.

Recently the federal government said it would put synthetic marijuana in the same category as cocaine and heroin because of negative effects such as heart attack and stroke. No final ruling has been made.

"The manufacturing of it has become more homemade, more garage production type. We have to be aware of that," said Pace, noting the dangers of the chemicals used.

Synthetic marijuana has been banned in the state of North Dakota.

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