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Idaho pharmacy board bans intoxicating incense

BOISE – The Idaho Board of Pharmacy on Thursday temporarily banned seven chemicals used to make incense that some people smoke to get a marijuana-like high.

The temporary ban, which puts the chemicals into the same category as heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs, won’t go into effect unless it is signed by Gov. Butch Otter.

The governor is likely to sign the temporary ban, Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said Thursday.

If signed, it will mean that stores can’t sell the substance often called “Spice,” which is made up of various herbs that have been coated with chemicals similar to a synthetic form of the psychoactive substance in marijuana.

The ban would last until the next legislative session ends – giving lawmakers a chance to decide whether they want to make a law permanently banning the substance.

The board was urged to take this step at the request of the governor and the Office of Drug Policy, Hanian said. “This is a problem we’ve been made aware of and are concerned about. The board’s action today is a result of that concern,” he added.

Jan Atkinson, the senior compliance officer with the board, said the Idaho State Police also asked for the ban, saying that the substance posed a public health risk.

Sharon Burke, program manager for the Office of Drug Policy, said emergency rooms around the state reported that people have suffered seizures, loss of consciousness, vomiting and other problems after using the substance.

“The Idaho Hospital Association conducted a survey for us, and they received responses from hospitals that reported between 80 and 100 emergency room visits – visits that the hospitals could directly say were because of use of the drug,” Burke said. “We’ve heard some pretty serious stories about the responses people have.”

Burke said 13 states have banned Spice and a handful of others are looking at possible bans.

Atkinson said it will be up to state lawmakers to decide if they want to make the ban long-term.