The story repeats itself across the country. A bright person, full of life, somehow tries “spice” or “K2” or bath salts — all imitation controlled substances.

The story repeats itself across the country. A bright person, full of life, somehow tries “spice” or “K2” or bath salts — all imitation controlled substances.

Things change. Behaviors shift. And sometimes, the worst happens.

That was the case with Tyler Smith in Nebraska. He committed suicide in September 2012. His mother found “incense” — synthetic marijuana — in his pocket. Tyler’s death came after a wild swing in mood attributed to the onset of synthetic drug use.

Louis Folson-Hart, an aspiring musician self-taught on the keyboard, died after ingesting a C-2, an imitated drug disguised to look like a pill. His friend, 17-year-old Chloe Moses, died along with Folson-Hart after taking the pill in March near Mankato, Minn. Teachers described Moses as a “very good student” with a passion for art.

Eldon resident Matt Golden was fortunate. Synthetic drugs didn’t take his life. In a story the Lake Sun published in September 2012, Golden recounted taking hits of synthetic cannabis. Responders said Golden died for about a minute before coming around.

Golden was lucky in the sense that the use of imitation controlled substances didn’t claim his life.

In the same town in which Golden nearly lost his life to synthetic drugs, an unusual move has shut down a business accused of supplying the dangerous, chemical-laced drugs to users in the area.

Miller County Prosecuting Attorney filed a civil suit last week against Puff N Snuff for allegedly selling synthetic drugs to an accomplice in conjunction with an undercover investigation.

A federal case filed last year against the business for selling K2 moved too slowly for Howard, who, in the civil suit, called the business a public nuisance.

When the story broke, several reactions I read called the suit frivolous, a waste of time, and not within the realm of Howard’s duties or business.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Howard was not only well within his right to file a civil suit; it was within his responsibility to do so.

In 2013, synthetic marijuana accounted for 12,593 units seized by the Narcotics Vice Unit, a unit of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. That makes the drug the fourth-most seized substance in the state, behind marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

NVU recovered more imitation substances than heroin, Xanax, Oxycontin, PCP, Pseudophedrine, Vicodin, Psilocybin mushrooms and Hydrocodone combined.

Synthetic drugs — most often a mix of potpurri, herbs and spices sprayed with chemicals — can often outpace regulations on the state level as a younger generation turns to the boutique market of designer drugs.

Missouri statutes expressly prohibit imitation controlled substances, both in definition as per section 195.010 and in action as per 195.130.

The law prohibits these lookalikes and the sale of such products.

Employees at Puff N Snuff allegedly said they sold the products and that they knew the products could cause harm. A probable cause statement indicates that employees sold synthetic drugs to customers who exhibited trouble speaking and talking.

If stopping a willing participant in the drug market isn’t part of the prosecuting attorney’s responsibility, what is?

As more states examine and pass laws allowing the sale of recreational marijuana, there seems to be a pervasive acceptance that if ‘marijuana’ is part of the name, it’s not a problem.

Synthetics and natural marijuana do not correlate. The artificial, chemical-based imitations sent 11,000 people, mostly the young and naive, to the hospital in 2010. The numbers have grown since then.

Accepting passivity toward a business selling a blatantly dangerous product needs to end.

Young people, under the assumption that it’s safe enough to use, have paid the price with their lives.

And that’s a consequence no one wants to see.