Continuous tweaking of chemical recipes for synthetic marijuana has led to a seemingly never-ending struggle pitting so-called "chemists" against law enforcement officials and legislators.

Continuous tweaking of chemical recipes for synthetic marijuana has led to a seemingly never-ending struggle pitting so-called "chemists" against law enforcement officials and legislators.

In a recent case, the Delaware County Sheriff's Office and Delaware Police Department launched a joint investigation after synthetic marijuana sickened two Delaware Hayes High School students. The investigation ended with the Oct. 16 arrest of Issa Alahmad, 49, of Delaware, who faces a felony drug-trafficking charge for allegedly selling a product known as "crown."

Delaware police Capt. Adam Moore said Alahmad is the owner of the Full Up gas station, 612 S. Sandusky St., which was one of the sites officers searched during the investigation. Moore said other business owners should view the arrest as a signal that selling synthetic marijuana in the city will not be tolerated.

"This should probably serve as a warning to other folks that they should know what they're selling," he said.

Alahmad posted bond after his arraignment Oct. 17, and has no currently scheduled court appearances, according to Delaware County court records.

Law enforcement officials said the Delaware Hayes teens used an e-cigarette to ingest, or "vape," the liquid. After they ingested it, the teens complained of symptoms including nausea, tremors and a burning feeling on their skin.

Officials with the Ohio Attorney General's Office said crown is just one of the latest iterations of synthetic marijuana, also known as "K2," "spice" and a variety of other names.

Jonathan Fulkerson, deputy chief counsel for the attorney general's office, said it can be difficult to identify synthetic drugs, which often are liquid compounds that can be sprayed on any organic substance.

"That could be potpourri. That could be yard clippings. That could be anything," he said.

Fulkerson said people who buy crown or any other synthetic drug rarely have any idea what they're purchasing. They don't know what active ingredient was used in the drug's production or how much was sprayed on the product.

"There's no quality control for these illegal chemists," Fulkerson said.

That lack of knowledge on the drug user's part can lead to overdose or even death.

Synthetic marijuana products are man-made cannabinoids, or chemical compounds that can alter the user's perception, leading to effects that range from relaxation to paranoia and hallucination.

The products are most commonly smoked, but they also can be ingested in liquid or vaporized form.

Jill Del Greco, attorney general's office spokeswoman, said that as soon as the state moves to make one cannabinoid compound illegal, its producers begin making a slightly different drug to get around the law.

"The issue is that the chemists tweak part of the compound and (then) that becomes popular," she said.

This also complicates investigations by local law enforcement officials, who often must send samples of synthetic drugs to state laboratories for testing before they can determine a product is even illegal.

Cannabinoids are similar to -- and sometimes mistaken for -- cathinones, a derivative of the khat plant, which has stimulant properties. Synthetic cathinones often are the active ingredient in drugs known as "bath salts."

Bath salts most commonly are inhaled or injected, and can lead to stimulant effects comparable to cocaine and hallucinatory effects similar to LSD.

These properties have led to bath salts being linked to bizarre and sometimes violent behavior.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic drugs have frequently been found for sale at gas stations, tobacco shops and online.

Fulkerson said the term "bath salts" is sometimes used as a euphemism for synthetic marijuana as well. He said this can lead to further confusion and danger when someone attempts to purchase synthetic marijuana.

Because the compounds can be sprayed on almost anything, Fulkerson said it might be difficult for parents to spot signs of synthetic-marijuana use. He said a shift in a child's personality may be the most obvious indicator of drug use.

"If your child's changing their behavior, they have new friends ... these are signs," he said.

Del Greco said synthetic drugs often are sold in small, colorful packages that advise the contents are not for human consumption.