Bryan Cohen Nov. 27, 2012, 2:32pm

NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced on Monday that the state's comprehensive ban on all synthetic marijuana variants is now permanent under a regulation adopted formally by the Division of Consumer Affairs.

The ban makes New Jersey the fourth state to comprehensively outlaw the possession, distribution, manufacture and sale of the hundreds of possible variants of the drug, commonly known by brand names such as Kush, Spice, K3, K2 and others.

The DCA temporarily introduced the ban in February when it enacted a 270-day order. The permanent regulation went into effect on November 19 after a public hearing and public comment period and after the publication of the regulation in the New Jersey register.

The order would have expired later this month.

"These synthetic poisons, once offered as a so-called 'legal high' by shady retailers, are now permanently off the market in New Jersey - and the numbers indicate our ongoing ban has led to a decline in their reported use," Chiesa said. "These drugs have grown in popularity nationwide, despite their alarming and catastrophic side effects. Today they are permanently on record as being just as illegal as cocaine or heroin."

The DCA ban adds the chemicals to the list of Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances in the state, a list of drugs subject to the highest level of control. The possession, sale, manufacture of distribution of the chemicals on the list is a third-degree crime with a fine of up to $25,000 and a three- to five-year prison term.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic marijuana is linked to dangerous side effects such as violent seizures, anxiety attacks, hallucinations and elevated heart rates. Reports indicate that users suffered fatal injuries or committed suicide after suffering extreme panic attacks caused by the use of synthetic marijuana.

In 2011, a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that synthetic marijuana was the third most commonly abused drug by high school seniors after marijuana and prescription drugs.

Since the enactment of the temporary ban in February, the number of synthetic marijuana cases submitted by law enforcement dropped by 79 percent between March and October. The number of synthetic marijuana exposures reported to the state's poison control hotline is significantly lower than last year as well.

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