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N.H. governor declares emergency after synthetic pot overdoses

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan

AP, File

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan

CONCORD, N.H. — Governor Maggie Hassan has declared a state of emergency to allow public health officials to investigate and quarantine synthetic drugs linked to recent overdoses in Manchester and Concord.

Authorities say at least 41 people in the Manchester area have experienced serious medical reactions to synthetic cannabinoids known as ‘‘spice’’ that are chemically engineered substances similar to the active ingredient in marijuana. Concord police have reported at least three cases since Wednesday.

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Hassan’s declaration gives the state Department of Health and Human Services the power to investigate, quarantine and require the destruction of the products, some of which are sold in stores.

She says the department will work with police to quarantine the bubblegum flavor of a product named ‘‘Smacked!’’ Such products are labeled as ‘‘herbal incense’’ but are known to be smoked or brewed.

Synthetic drugs like “spice” have increasingly become a target of law enforcement — from local police to federal authorities.

In May, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it was expanding a national crackdown on the makers, wholesalers and retailers who sell spice and other substances including bath salts and molly.

Some of these drugs are sold in stores, while others trade on the underground market.

Federal agents said they made more than 150 arrests around that time, seizing hundreds of thousands of packets of drugs along with large amounts of chemicals used to make them.

At the time, investigators said they were concerned about who was collecting the profits from the sale of the synthetic drugs they targeted. Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, officials said.

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