Nebraska Legislature to take aim at synthetic marijuana in 2016


December 11th, 2015

Synthetic marijuana hospitalized more than 100 people in Lincoln in April. (Photo Courtesy Wiki-commons)

Synthetic marijuana hospitalized more than 100 people in Lincoln in April. (Photo Courtesy Drug Enforcement Administration)

Nebraska legislators are trying to outlaw synthetic marijuana, or K2. The problem is, the drug’s makers are changing the ingredients faster than lawmakers can outlaw them. But as KVNO’s Brandon McDermott reports, the senators are now working to pass a “silver bullet” bill through the legislature.

Omaha, NE – Synthetic marijuana or ‘K2’ can be deceiving to potential consumers. Its green and looks like an herb or even potpourri. The leafy plant matter is benign until manufacturers change the make-up.

Sergeant Dave Bianchi works in the Narcotics Unit of the Omaha Police Department:

“It’s the chemical that get sprayed on it that makes a potent or make turns it into a drug or gives it the hallucinogenic effect,” Sgt. Bianchi said.

Worse yet, Sgt. Bianchi says that it can be bought at area retailers like gas stations and even online. He says many youngsters might see the name ‘synthetic marijuana’ and think K2 is the same as marijuana.

Kandi Hendershot's teenage son tried synthetic marijuana and she says it changed him. (Photo Courtesy Kandi Hendershot)

Kandi Hendershot’s teenage son tried synthetic marijuana and she says it affected him behavior. (Photo Courtesy Kandi Hendershot)

“They equate it in their head to marijuana but it’s nothing like marijuana. The K2 we’re seeing as much more like a harsher drug like heroin or PCP or LSD. We’ve had reports of people dying after just one or two uses of K2.”

“It’s everywhere,” Hendershot said. “If you’ve gone to Columbus, Nebraska it’s right there in the gas stations and little shops. You can go the Old Market and find it.

Kandi Hendershot is a mother of four living in Bellevue.

“I go to a convenient mart right in Sarpy County and they have it. They sell their pipes and all those and they have those little (K2) packages.”

This year she found out her teenage son was experimenting with synthetic marijuana.

“He took off and ran from home and me and my husband searched for him for a week and found him, put him in the car took him there (the hospital) and I told them ‘I want to drug test and I want to make sure K2 is involved in this test.’ The therapist or psychologist that does the initial interview tried tell me they couldn’t test for K2.”

Even though the hospital wouldn’t test for it, Hendershot says her son did admit to using it. She says smoking the chemical compound changed him.

“It made my son very mean, very angry. He was unreasonable – just things that they go through. He doesn’t care about school and he feels there are no consequences. Yes, it’s a demon.”

Side effects of K2 are very broad – mostly because the chemicals that are used to spray it can change. From symptoms of psychosis, to hallucinations, extreme anxiety, headaches and even suicidal thoughts are attributed to K2.

“We know how devastating it can be it can kill them. They cannot wake up they could have a seizure and they could hurt others.”

Sgt. Bianchi says the chemicals which are sprayed on K2 have changed drastically in recent years. Even now, he says, there is no consistency.

“So a consumer could purchase a package one week. And go buy a package of the same product of the next week and get a completely different chemical.”

State senator Matt Williams represents Legislative District 36 in central Nebraska. Senators tried to agree on a general definition of what can be considered synthetic marijuana.

“For a number of years we continued to update what we call the pharmaceutical and ingredients that go into the manufacture of this product,” Senator Williams said. “The problem is every time we update these pharmaceutical definitions – the manufacturers which are primarily in India, change the chemical compounds slightly.”

When the chemical compounds change, it may not meet the definition that the legislature has prescribed. So manufactures are staying a step ahead of the legal process.

“I am optimistic that with the work of the groups that are meeting on this right now which again brings in a broad spectrum of people – we will find that silver bullet so to speak that will attack this not only now, but into the future.”

Senator Williams wanted to be clear on who the legislature will go after this session.

“What we’re trying to do is not penalize the people that are sometimes actually innocently buying this. But we are trying to attack those manufacturers and then those retail businesses that are actually selling those products to our children and adults and damaging their lives.”

As a mother, Hendershot knows the manufactures are targeting kids.

“K2 looks exciting to the population of the youth. The package often has different colored stuff kind of like what we barred cigarette companies from doing. We are allowing this K2 to do you can walk into several convenience stores into several shops and they can pick it up and not have to have an ID.”

Sgt. Bianchi agrees:

“Now you get names like Fear and Loathing and there’s cool our graphics on it and they are being geared towards the youth.”

Senator Williams is confident that they will get this accomplished this session. He says he has been hard pressed to find anyone opposed to keeping K2, in all of its forms, off store shelves and out of the hands of kids. The Nebraska Legislature’s 2016 session begins January 6.

2 Responses

  1. Rob Shaffer says:

    Perhaps if Nebraska would stop demonizing the natural marijuana plant which has never killed anyone in the history of mankind citizens would not resort to purchasing chemical poison substitutes.
    In Colorado an 18 year old can obtain a medical card if eligible and purchase natural, clean and tested marijuana.
    Teens under the age of 18 should abstain completely but those that don’t at least get to live and have no permanent damage from the natural plant.
    This is the sort of thing prohibition causes. Our attorney general Doug Peterson refuses to consider any sort of legalization. So pass more laws and hope for the best. But considering meth is more pure and cheaper than its ever been in Nebraska according to the Omaha World Herald don’t hold your breath that more laws will do much.

  2. Brandon McDermott, KVNO News says:

    Thanks for reading Rob. I appreciate your input.

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