A little over two months ago, New Jersey became the fourth state in the nation to enact a sweeping ban on synthetic marijuana.

Now, state officials want to take that ban a step further and make it permanent.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs will hold a public hearing on Thursday, May 10th to take testimony on the Attorney General's and the Division's intent to make permanent New Jersey's comprehensive ban on synthetic marijuana.

"We struck an important first blow by enacting a temporary ban that, for the first time, outlawed every possible variant of synthetic marijuana," Attorney General Chiesa said. "Now we are taking the steps needed to make the ban permanent, and a public hearing is a vital part of that process."

The current ban covers all known and unknown variants of synthetic marijuana - a term that includes hundreds of dangerous, man-made chemicals, sold with brand names such as "K2" and "Spice," that are designed to mimic marijuana's effect on the brain.

Packets of synthetic marijuana and other suspected designer drugs have been sold at gas stations, boardwalk novelty shops, and other locations across New Jersey. The packages often bear labels claiming the contents are not covered by any existing federal or state ban, creating the impression that they can be sold legally.

"These toxic chemicals have devastating effects on the body and mind, but they are growing in popularity among teenage users nationwide. There is no time to waste in our effort to ensure shady retailers will never again sell these poisons as if they were legal," said Chiesa.

In 2011 alone, the New Jersey Poison Education and Information System received 146 calls reporting exposure to synthetic marijuana in 2011 - an alarming 711 percent increase from 2010. Seventy percent of the synthetic marijuana reports in 2011 originated in Middlesex, Ocean, Monmouth, Morris, Mercer, and Atlantic counties.

The public hearing will begin at 10 a.m., Thursday, May 10th , in the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs headquarters, Monmouth Conference Room, 7th Floor, 124 Halsey Street, in Newark.