It may look and smell like candy. But to youngsters, it could be poison.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday (198-1), to pass a bill to ban synthetic marijuana.

Your kids know what it is. Hopefully they haven't tried it. But for you who are not up-to-date on the latest menace to our society, here's what it is.

Synthetic marijuana, the most common braqnd known as "K2", is a blend of herbs treated with chemicals to produce a marijuana-like high in users. Synthetic marijuana is often sweetened with flavors such as blueberry, strawberry, and mint to entice children and teens to smoke.

Mixes of synthetic marijuana sold on the street contain various dangerous chemicals which present real health risks to users. Many of the chemicals used in synthetic marijuana are often imported from China, and they lack FDA approval. But due to the fact it is not a controlled substance, it is sold openly on the internet and in smoke shops under the names "Demon" and "Hawaiian Haze."

Because it is not labled a controlled substance, doesn't make it any less dangerous, however. The use of synthetic marijuana causes unwanted and dangerous side effects in its users. Emergency rooms across Pennsylvania and nationwide have seen an influx of patients who are suffering the ill effects of its use. Many people consuming it have needed heavy tranquilizing to calm down. In addition to being potentially fatal, the drug can cause symptoms such as fast heart rate, confusion, nausea, agitation, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures in its users.

"Plain and simple, these prouducts are targeted at teens and young people, with many kids equating the fact that it is 'legal' with it being 'safe,' said Rep. Jennifer L. Mann, D-Lehigh, who sponsored the house legislation. "In voting to make synthetic marijauna illegal, the House has stood with law enforcement and the medical community to get this drug out of our communities."

We expect the Senate to follow the House vote with its overwhelming support of Mann's bill.

No, it won't completely take synthetic marijuana off the streets and out of the hands of our children. But it will make whoever is distributing this dangerous drug responsible for the consequences of their actions.

It may even save some young lives.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com