Pubdate: Sat, 27 Nov 2010
Source: Omaha World-Herald (NE)
Copyright: 2010 Omaha World-Herald Company
Author: Bob Glissmann, World-Herald Staff Writer
Bookmark: (NORML)


The new federal prohibition on "fake pot" is a welcome step, a 
Nebraska state senator says. But he still plans to push for a state 
law that would ban such products.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced Wednesday that it 
intends to make it illegal to sell or possess five chemicals that are 
used in fake pot, along with products that contain them.

"I'm thrilled the DEA put out this emergency ban," said State Sen. 
Beau McCoy of Omaha.

But even though the DEA action addresses the five most commonly used 
chemicals in the product, he said, manufacturers are likely to alter 
their chemical formulas just enough to ensure that they fall outside the ban.

"Our legislation will nip that in the bud because it goes after the 
chemical class," not just specific chemicals, McCoy said Friday.

Over the past year, the DEA said, smokable herbal blends -- marketed 
as being legal and providing a marijuana-like high -- have become 
increasingly popular. The products consist of plant material that has 
been coated with chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Brands such as K2, Spice, Blaze and Red X Dawn are labeled as 
"incense" to mask their intended purpose, the DEA said.

The chemicals haven't been approved by the Food and Drug 
Administration for human consumption, the DEA said, and there is no 
oversight of the manufacturing process.

Allen Peithman, owner of Dirt Cheap, a Lincoln retail store that 
sells tobacco products and T-shirts, among other things, said he will 
stop selling herbal incense because of the DEA decision.

Herbal incense sales made up about half his business, Peithman said. 
"I'm gonna miss the extra money, let's put it that way," he said.

McCoy said the DEA, local law enforcement agencies and the Nebraska 
Attorney General's Office have helped craft the Nebraska legislation, 
which he plans to introduce when lawmakers convene in January.

This summer, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy banned the sale of synthetic 
cannabinoids, which are the active compounds found in marijuana.

Few people in the region knew much about fake pot a year ago, McCoy 
said. "It's become a huge issue in the last six months to a year," he said.

Peithman said products that include one of the targeted chemicals, 
JWH-018, have been around for almost nine years. Similar products 
have been available for decades, he said.

McCoy said people who have used the drug have experienced elevated 
heart rates and hallucinations. "Who knows what the long-term 
ramifications of these compounds are?" he said.

Such symptoms also have been linked to marijuana use, Peithman said.

"If pot was a tire, this stuff would be a spare tire," he said. "It's 
not as good."

McCoy said two reports about area teenagers who reportedly used fake 
pot helped spur him to craft legislation. He cited the case of a 
16-year-old boy in Sidney, Neb., who crashed into a house in late 
September after using K2. Fortunately, McCoy said, no one was 
injured. He also said the suicide of an 18-year-old from Indianola, 
Iowa, in June was linked to K2 use.

"We need to do whatever we can to put a halt to this," he said.

Paul Carter, executive director of PRIDE Omaha, an anti-drug group, 
said in a press release that his group applauds the DEA's action. He 
said packages containing fake pot are marked "not for human 
consumption," but the product has become popular with young people 
who think it couldn't hurt them because it was "legal."

NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 
said the growing popularity of such products is "a predictable 
outgrowth of criminal marijuana prohibition."
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