Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley has started an aggressive campaign against synthetic marijuana in the parish.

Wiley has issued a warning to parents and local businesses that synthetic marijuana, a blend of herbs and spices laced with chemicals meant to mimic the effects of marijuana, is a growing concern locally and nationally. Several local high school students were rushed to the hospital and treated after smoking synthetic marijuana, Wiley said.

The drug is being marketed and sold in stores as potpourri and incense, he said in a news release. Some common names of the substance are White Dove, White Rabbit, Amsterdam Attic, Purple Passion, Spice and K2, Wiley said.

Selling for about $15 per package, the synthetic drug is far more dangerous than the packing suggests, he said. It can cause hallucinations, extreme paranoia, chest pains, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate causing a heart attack and suicidal tendencies.

The phenomenon came to prominence across the country in the past two years, and Louisiana legislators classified synthetic marijuana as a Schedule I controlled dangerous substance in 2011. Authorities seized the product from stores and made it illegal to sell.

However, Wiley said, some of the new products being sold are laced with different chemical compounds that are not listed among the banned substances in Louisiana. The makers of the drug have constantly changed the chemical compound, making it difficult for lawmakers to keep up, he said.

The Sheriff’s Narcotics Division has met with local merchants and strongly encouraged them not to sell the product, Wiley said. The store owners and managers have been advised by Ascension Parish authorities they were being put on notice that any resulting death or injury caused by any such product sold at their store could result in criminal prosecution as well as civil exposure.