Places race to outlaw K2 'Spice' drug

From USA Today:

Nearly a dozen states and several cities are banning or debating bans on K2 — a packet of herbs coated with a synthetic chemical that mimics a marijuana high when it's smoked — amid fears that its use is spreading among young people.

K2, also known as "Spice," is sold online, in convenience stores and in herbal or spiritual shops, and is usually marketed as incense. The herbs, which sell for as much as $35 an ounce, have emerged as a popular, legal alternative to marijuana among teenagers and college students.

Clemson University chemist John Huffman, a research professor whose graduate students synthesized the substance in his lab 15 years ago, says the chemical may be harmful. "It shouldn't be out there," he says.

Anthony Scalzo, director of the Missouri Poison Center in St. Louis, notified poison centers nationwide about K2 the first week of February after doctors in Missouri reported patients sickened from it.

"At first we had about a dozen cases, but then it really blossomed. By the first week of April, we had 40 cases," Scalzo says. "Missouri remains the epicenter, but it's spreading out."

Poison Centers nationwide have reported 352 cases in 35 states since the initial report, he says. Patients often have a rapid heart rate, dangerously high blood pressure and sometimes hallucinations or paranoia.

The Drug Enforcement Administration considers K2 a "drug of concern," spokesman David Ausiello says. "We're in the early stages of trying to figure out how potent it is."

Kansas banned the drug March 10. Kentucky followed April 13. Alabama's ban takes effect July 1. Legislatures in Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee have passed bans that will take effect unless vetoed by their governors. Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and New York are considering bills to outlaw the drug.

Posted: 5/24/2010 11:57:00 AM

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