What to know:
- Two brothers reflect on their use of synthetic marijuana and how it affected their lives.
- In 2013, state lawmakers passed a bill banning synthetic marijuana and chemicals commonly used to make the drug.
- Prosecutors said it is difficult to pursue the cases because manufacturers tend to stay one step ahead of the law itself.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- State lawmakers banned synthetic marijuana in 2013. But today, versions of the drug are still being sold across North Carolina, and it's all perfectly legal.
Therman Largen said for four years, synthetic marijuana -- or spice, as it's also known -- took over his life and the lives of his family.
Therman told Channel 9’s Stephanie Coueignoux, “I didn't go to my kid's baby shower because I wanted to get high that day.”
Read our past coverage:
- New, more potent synthetic marijuana spreads across NC
- Police: 3 smoke shops raided, synthetic marijuana seized
He's 22 now. In December, he completed rehab and met his son for the first time.
Therman’s younger brother, Greg Lindville, first tried spice when he was just 16.
Lindville says he broke into a local smoke shop twice to feed his addiction.
“So I went down there and I busted the door down and I got it. That's how bad it made me,” Lindville said.
He says he was so desperate, he was willing to steal from his own family.
“I didn't care who you were. If you had money and I wanted it -- I was robbing your grandma, momma, brother, sister, child. I didn't matter who you were,” said Lindville.
Lindville’s mother was so desperate, she took pictures of him passed out after using spice. During one court appearance, she gave those photos to a judge who then sentenced him to prison. Lindville says his mother's tough love saved his life.
“If she would have gave up, I would have given up myself. She and God were my only strength,” he said.
Both brothers say now they know the dangers, but back then, they thought spice was safe because it was sold in a store.
“Totally felt it was safer because it was legal,” Therman said.
“I thought, how can they sell something legally that is going to hurt me?" Lindville said.
In 2013, state lawmakers passed a bill banning synthetic marijuana and chemicals commonly used to make the drug.
Manufacturers, though, continue to create new ingredients that aren't mentioned in the law and are therefore legal. They then sell those packets with the label "not for human consumption."
State Rep. Craig Horn helped sponsor that bill. He told Channel 9’s Stephanie Coueignoux manufacturers should be held accountable for the ingredients they use.
"I'd like to focus on the manufacturers. That's the easiest place to stop it. There needs to be a testing regimen so you can show it and demonstrate it clearly to the court. It takes a while to get test kits to be distributed," said Horn.
Therman and Lindville both say unless the drug is taken off the shelves, teens will continue to experiment and get hooked.
In the latest study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana was the most popular drug among high school seniors. The second most popular drug was synthetic marijuana.
From his kitchen window, Lindville can see the smoke shop he broke into, and he now worries about what he sees.
“Every car that goes there, I think maybe it's their first time trying it and they don't know what they're getting themselves into,” Lindville said.
Lindville says he knows he can't stop people from trying spice, but he'd like to see a law that makes it harder to start.
The Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office says it hasn't prosecuted anyone in the past year for manufacturing or distributing synthetic marijuana.
Prosecutors said it is difficult to pursue the cases because manufacturers tend to stay one step ahead of the law itself.