Senator wants to ban synthetic marijuana


February 14th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – Labeled with names like Spice and Black Magic, K2 is sold as incense, but often used as a synthetic drug. And the number of those seeking medical help after using the drug is on the rise.

K2/Spice/Black Magic is often sold as incense, but can be smoked as a synthetic marijuana

Hallucinations, seizures and chest tightness are symptoms experienced after using K2. Sometimes they are so severe, users seek medical help. Joan McVoy is a registered nurse at the Nebraska Poison Center. She said the Center never received a K2 related call until last year when it had fifty.

“You have to figure, for us to get 50 calls, that there are a lot more cases out there for us to get the calls.” That’s “the tip of what’s really happening.”

K2 includes grasses or herbs sprayed with different chemical ingredients. The amount and mix of chemicals varies. State Senator Beau McCoy of Omaha said medical professionals tell him treating health conditions related to K2 use is difficult.

“So consequently, when folks that have health problems after using K2 and they arrive at our medical facilities, medical staff don’t know exactly what they are dealing with,” he said.

McCoy introduced a bill banning K2. Thirteen other states have done that already, but McCoy’s bill approaches the issue differently. Some ban specific chemical compounds, so manufacturers simply make slight changes to the mixture and are back in business.

But McCoy’s bill bans eight chemical classes used to create K2 and its derivatives. “What we’ve done is essentially eliminated potentially 700 chemical compounds that could be used to make K2.”

McVoy from the Poison Center wants parents to know that just because it’s labeled as incense, K2 is often being smoked like marijuana. But the chemicals in the product can cause serious health concerns.

“For them to call us, it’s usually because they are running into some problems,” she said. “They’re not feeling right, they’re not feeling like they would think they would be feeling had they smoked marijuana.” They’re “getting a lot of unpleasant symptoms.”

The penalties for possession of K2 will be similar to those for possession of marijuana. State lawmakers have given McCoy’s bill approval through two rounds of debate. He expects final round approval this week.

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