If you haven’t heard yet about synthetic marijuana, chances are you will soon. The drug, known as spice or K2, consists of crushed green leaves sprayed with various man-made chemicals. When smoked, users claim the leaves provide a high similar to marijuana.
The designer drug - sold online and in gas stations, head shops and retail stores - is legal in most states. It typically comes in small, foil packets approximately two by three inches. It may be labeled as an herbal smoking blend, herbal smoke, alternative marijuana or fake weed. Some packages promote it as incense.
Unlike real marijuana, K2 can’t be detected by drug tests, a factor cited as a key to its popularity. There are reports that the drug is popular with parolees as well as members of the armed forces.
Demand for it is growing, as is concern about the drug’s safety. Kansas was the first state to outlaw synthetic marijuana, in March, 2010, followed by Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. Missouri became the sixth state last week and similar efforts are underway in Iowa, Michigan, Illinois and Louisiana.
Scott Rupp, a Missouri state senator, said he backed the ban for good reason. "We were getting reports from local law enforcement that this was exploding among the youth population," the Republican told the Washington Post. "We were getting reports of kids hurting themselves and showing up in the emergency room as they were sick from it."
The Georgia Poison Center has had more than 50 calls about K2 in the last two months. On the national level, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged 567 cases from 41 states from people reporting a bad reaction to K2 from January through June of 2010. Thirteen cases were reported in 2009. Reactions have included increased heart rates, paranoia and hallucinations.