Pubdate: Sun, 14 Nov 2010
Source: Greensboro News & Record (NC)
Copyright: 2010 Greensboro News & Record, Inc.
Author: Dioni L. Wise


GREENSBORO - Law enforcement and legislators across the country are
scrambling to ban a legal, synthetic form of marijuana that is giving
youths a new high.

The spice cannaboid, known as K2, is an herb-and-spice mixture that is
sprayed with a chemical compound similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, or
THC, the pyschoactive ingredient in marijuana.

People smoke K2, also known by names such as spice and genie, through
pipes or rolled in paper. It's sold on the Internet and in gas
stations, convenience stores and head shops for prices ranging from
$15 to $150 per 3-gram bag.

In Greensboro.

Officer Marc Ridgill, a Grimsley school resource officer, confiscated
two packs of K2 from two students the second day of school and a pack
of second-generation K2, called K3, a few weeks ago.

In the first incident, impaired students arrived on campus with
slurred speech and red eyes.

"Very similar to what you'd see in a marijuana high, except this was a
little more intense," Ridgill said. "In talking to folks who smoke
this stuff regularly, it is more of an acid or hallucinogenic high.
This is not like marijuana at all."

Detective C.W. Schoolfield urges parents to research the drug, notice
odd behavior from their kids and look for drug paraphernalia in their

"Parents get confused with looking out for their welfare and
respecting their privacy," Schoolfield said. "You've got to know your

Schoolfield said synthetic marijuana use is a growing trend.

As of Thursday, U.S. poison centers had received 2,116 calls this year
about synthetic marijuana, according to the American Association of
Poison Control Centers. The association began tracking the calls in
late 2009.

The Charlotte-based Carolinas Poison Center has received 101 calls
this year.

That's up from five in all of 2009.

Most of the callers are doctors who don't know how to treat a K2 user
experiencing a racing heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea and
vomiting - the opposite of the expected high.

"Synthetic marijuana has been marketed as an incense or potpourri,
which gives the impression that it's safe, but really we don't know
the long-term effects," said Carolinas Poison Center spokeswoman Alexa

The substance was initially developed in the 1990s for research

As with other benign, well-intended products, someone figured out how
to abuse it.

It was popular in Europe, but a European drug-monitoring center says
little research has been conducted on K2's effects on humans.

The chemical content in the products and the effects users experience
vary, Steverson said.

A Guilford County deputy, who asked not to be identified because he
works undercover with the narcotics team, said he hasn't yet heard
many complaints about the synthetic marijuana.

"It's just a matter of time," he said.

More parents are calling the sheriff's office with questions. They
ask: "'What's the deal with it? Is it legal? Is there any legislation
to try and do something about this?'" he said.

The fake drug has been banned by 10 states, and legislation banning
the substance is pending in four more, according to the National
Conference of State Legislatures.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has listed K2 as one of its "drugs or
chemicals of concern."

Meanwhile, its sale and possession is legal in almost all of North

But last week, Fort Bragg officials declared the use and possession of
K2 prohibited among soldiers, who will be punished for failing to obey
an order if they're caught with the substance.

And recently, Democratic state Sen. Bill Purcell succeeded with his
bill to ban a hallucinogenic herb called Salvia divinorum. The ban
took effect Dec. 1, 2009.

A state health care committee is studying the regulation of synthetic
marijuana and will report its findings and any recommended legislation
to the General Assembly during its next regular session, which starts
in January.

Synthetic marijuana users point to the fact that the drug is legal.

So are prescription drugs, said the unidentified deputy. People who
have misused prescription drugs and gotten behind the wheel of a car
impaired have caused fatal crashes.

"If we have a similar effect like that, it can lead to catastrophic
events," he said of K2.

The deputy said manufacturers are creating a new generation of fake
pot to get around state laws that ban certain chemicals.

He suggests that North Carolina legislators take their time when
writing a law.

"The careful move is to proceed with caution. That way there's not
going to be those loopholes," he said.
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