'Legal weed' found in local stores - should it be banned?

An example of "Happy Shaman" / photo: Brandon Roth

Believe it or not, the "drug" these teens are smoking for all the world to see on YouTube is legal. (Warning, the video clip contains graphic language and drug references).

It goes by the brand name "Happy Shaman", but out on the street the marijuana-mimicking herbs are known as "legal weed."

Since it is legal, you can find "Happy Shaman" just about anywhere, including local stores like Xtreme Underground in downtown Oswego. The store even has a bright neon sign in its window promoting the product, which is marketed as an herbal incense not for human consumption. That is how the product may be marketed, but police say a growing number of people are now smoking the chemical-laced herbs and using them as an easy "legal" way to get high.

A quick search online found several sites promoting the drug-like benefits of "Happy Shaman." One user, Jacob from Myrtle Beach, raved about the product. "I just bought some 'Happy Shaman Herbs', seriously, very good stuff. I can't believe this is legal!" he said.

Another anonymous poster from Vero Beach, Florida had a similar reaction: "Happy Shaman Herbs are amazing. The only thing I want to know is does it show up in a drug test?"

Happy Shaman does not, in fact, show up in a drug test. That is one reason police say the herbs are becoming so popular.

Colby Sutter, a drug awareness educatior at the Prevention Network, says the chemicals found in "Happy Shaman" can pose health risks. But he says when it comes to keeping kids away from the herbs, the products legal status is a problem.

"They are coming to me and asking me to prove to me these are wrong, when they can buy them in any store and use them at any age. So that's tough. It's getting tough to tell kids they shouldn't be doing something when they are legal to buy," says Sutter.

Seven states have now banned "Happy Shaman". Other states, New York included, are working to do the same. In the meantime, like it or not, this "legal weed" will continue to be easy to find.