In mid-February, Nevada became the 34th state to make the sale or possession of many synthetic drugs illegal.
But that hasn't stopped local smoke shops from selling them and people from taking them.
They are the new "it" drug with teenagers and older users alike.
Marijuana, crystal meth and LSD are all made synthetically and sold right out in the open.
With clever names and packaging, these drugs could be just laying in your teenager's room and you might not give it a second thought.
It sounds innocent enough - bath salts, spice.
But what may seem like a product found in every household is in fact one found in many drug users' stashes.
"It's a growing problem," said Paul Rozario with the DEA. "Especially with the youth of America, I think they're looking at the average age of between 15 and 24 are the users of synthetic drugs."
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, they responded to 3,200 calls related to synthetic drugs in 2010.
In 2011, that number quadrupled to more than 13,000 calls.
Sixty percent of those cases were with patients 25 or younger.
Certified addictionaologist David Marlon isn't surprised by the figures.
"In the last five years, synthetic marijuana went from not on the graph to the number two drug abused by 18 and under kids," Marlon said. "The fact that you can go into a smoke shop on almost any corner and buy it in Las Vegas is a big problem."
That's exactly what's happening.
We sent a FOX5 staffer undercover to four different smoke shops in various parts of the valley.
Drug use was discussed openly, and synthetic marijuana sells for as little as $10 a gram.
But it's not just pot. Synthetic amphetamines, while not sold in the open as much because of federal laws, are still sold on the black market and internet as bath salts.
"That is a much harder drug, basically crystal meth," Marlon said.
Most are smoking or snorting it at a cost at least half of the real drug.
Now it's a felony in Nevada to sell or possess synthetic drugs thanks to a bipartisan effort led by state Sen. Joe Hardy and Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, giving law enforcement the power to act.
"It gives them the ability to remove this item from our stores and from our streets," Mastroluca said.
"We know that people are going to tweak things and they're going to figure out ways around it," Hardy said. "But we aren't going to sit still while waiting for a perfect way to do it."
Because synthetic drugs are chemistry-based, suppliers are trying to skirt the law by tweaking one molecule so it's not an exact match of the outlawed substance.
No federal cases have gone to court yet, so it's unclear if arrests will hold up in court.
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
Monday, July 28 2014 1:54 AM EDT2014-07-28 05:54:28 GMT
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