More than 500 cases of adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana had been reported across the country in the past year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, up from six reported incidents from the previous year.
But the message of danger is not getting out. Instead, synthetic marijuana is an Internet sensation. Catchy music, sexy poses and smoke-filled pictures with bongs and rolled joints appeal to a youth culture that sees a high that is easy to get. One YouTube video shows girls smoking the drug while wearing gas masks. In other videos, kids brag about finding a legal high.
"Legal weed. Here it is," one young man said in a YouTube video. "If you want to go with something legal and don't want to get busted, K2."
But the danger is real. When ABC News sent the kind of "spice" sold in Minnesota to a Pennsylvania laboratory, reports showed the drug contained chemicals that the DEA believes could be five times more powerful than marijuana.
Preliminary tests by the DEA found that synthetic marijuana has dangerous long-term and short-term side effects.
"You're basically playing Russian roulette with these chemicals," said Gary Boggs, a special agent with the DEA. "Hallucination, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure ... these chemicals appear to bind to certain parts of the brain, so the potential for long-term effects are very deadly."
None of the dangerous chemicals appear on the package label.
Before the DEA's recent decision, police departments throughout Minneapolis were powerless to fight the drug, although they said they were disturbed to see so many young people ending up in the hospital, often suffering from seizures.
"It is very frustrating to us, because there is nothing we can do about it," Detective Dan Schoen of the Cottage Grove Police Department told ABC News last month. "They are not going to stop selling it until they absolutely are forced to."
Paul Hausladen, 20, said his life began to fall apart after he became addicted to the easily accessible drug. "It's the type of drug that once you use it once, you have no control over how you are going to use," Hausladen said. "I could walk into a tobacco store and just buy whatever I wanted, however much I wanted."
A former user, Hausladen has a ready warning for parents. "The people that are buying it have no idea how strong it is," he said. "I don't want anyone to go down the same path I went down."
ABC's Bradley Blackburn contributed to this report.