A 39-year-old Manchester native was just handed a prison term of one year plus a day for possession with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids. The synthetic drugs, known on the street as “Spice” and by other names, keep cropping up in various forms all over the country despite attempts to stop the substances from being sold and consumed.

Synthetic marijuana is supposed to mimic the euphoric effects of regular marijuana, but the drugs are unregulated, and the formulas are constantly being tweaked to try to overcome federal bans. Many people who buy synthetic marijuana do so under the belief that it is both entirely legal and just as safe (or safer) than regular cannabis products.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Synthetic marijuana has been known to produce extreme reactions in some people and can be very harmful. It’s also the subject of intense scrutiny by law enforcement as authorities keep trying to remove the drugs from the market.

In this case, the substance found in the Manchester man’s possession was known to authorities as 5F-MDMB-PICA and is associated with at least 244 overdoses in the District of Columbia and 47 more in Connecticut. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) declared it illegal in early 2019.

As the social and legal attitudes toward marijuana change, it’s important not to assume that that shift applies to every other kind of drug. Part of the reason that authorities have largely decriminalized marijuana use and possession in small amounts in New Hampshire is so that they have the time, energy and resources to go after far more serious drugs that are actually harmful. It’s a mistake to think that you won’t face prosecution if you’re caught with something like Spice.

If you’re facing drug possession charges or charges of possession with the intent to sell, take the necessary steps to protect your future as soon as possible.