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Attempts to Ban Fake Marijuana Are Further Proof of Prohibition's Failure (Opinion)

Mike Meno, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, opines that K2 bans are misguided because they don't address the core issue: millions of Americans want to use marijuana, or something that will mimic its effects, and if they're afraid about illegal means of doing so, they will continue to seek out legal alternatives.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-meno/attempts-to-ban-fake-mari_b_738634.html

PA: Spice/K2 Prohibition Gets Fast Track, Medical Marijuana Bills Wait (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2010
CONTACT: Chris Goldstein at 215-586-3483 or media@phillynorml.org

PA: Spice/K2 Prohibition Gets Fast Track, Medical Marijuana Bills Wait

Pennsylvania saw medical marijuana bills HB 1393 and SB 1350 introduced last year. A Franklin&Marshall poll found that a whopping 80% of residents support the legislation, this was across the political spectrum.

Medical marijuana is currently the most broadly supported policy issue in Pennsylvania. Still, PA residents with serious medical conditions are waiting for the General Assembly to hold even a Committee level vote on the bills.

Since the issue is enjoying such strong backing from the voting public you’d think that medical marijuana would become positive political capital in an election year. But politicos do not know how to handle the numbers: They pop champagne bottles when their polls hit the high 30s…dare we say 40s. This whole range of 60-80 percent is new ground.

Instead of helping ill residents with an affordable, local health care alternative by legalizing cannabis therapy elected officials decided that they would rather spend their time banning something new.

This week the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee unanimously (24-0) voted forward HB 176, a bill that would ban a new set of chemical fad drugs.

Legislators and the media are incorrectly labeling the substances “fake pot” or “synthetic marijuana” but the compounds are not at all like natural cannabis. They are more akin to chemical inhalants.

The fad drugs are sold as packets of incense with hundreds of label names like “Spice” or “K2.” Bans in other states have been completely ineffective as the ingredients are changed and access is readily available online.

Users seek an undetectable high. Because these chemicals are nothing like marijuana, users can pass all standard workplace drug screens. There are no intoxication urine tests or police field tests for the drugs. Tests would not be mandated by HB 176 and would be expensive to develop.

Some of the Spice/K2 type compounds contain synthetic cannabinoids; some contain already controlled substances. The truly dangerous part about these chemical drugs is that the ingredients are wholly unknown and the chemical recipe varies among the hundreds of brands.

Now, Harrisburg is literally creating a new drug problem in Pennsylvania where there was none previously. It is a horrifying, textbook example of why prohibition policy does not work.

As a marijuana reform advocate in Pennsylvania, I am getting a Kafkaesque front-row seat.

These politics are playing out on the streets of Pennsylvania. Residents are being told there is a legal high available, somehow like marijuana, and they are eagerly seeking it out.

HB 176 has been the most effective marketing and advertising tool for these chemical drugs, ever. There was little awareness of these Spice/K2 type chemical drugs locally before the bill was introduced to prohibit them.

The intention of HB 176’s more than thirty legislative co-sponsors is to quell the use of the Spice/K2 type drugs. Of course, the narrative taken by these legislators and the media to the public is having the opposite effect, causing a tremendous spike in interest and real-world use.

An effective deterrent might be having several Spice/K2 brands tested for their actual ingredients. Publishing the long list of strange and nasty chemicals in this stuff would keep many residents away from it.

Legislators could stand in line with overwhelming public support for a positive health solution with medical marijuana.  Natural marijuana is safe, effective, non-toxic and non-lethal. Humans have been using it for thousands of years. 

We have had doctors, severely ill residents, medical experts, religious leaders and community leaders testify in favor of medical marijuana. A flood of written testimony and emails has come in from all corners of Pennsylvania to support medical marijuana.

But, instead of heeding this call, elected officials are moving full-election year-throttle ahead with another senseless, ineffective prohibition. This could leave Pennsylvania to deal with another new drug problem, of its very own invention, for years to come.

Location: 
PA
United States

Synthetic Cannabinoids: K2/Spice Banned in Missouri

Missouri has become the latest state to ban products containing synthetic cannabinoids, with Gov. Jay Nixon signing into law this week a bill making them and products containing them controlled substances in the state. The law goes into effect August 28.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/spicedrug.jpg
''spice'' packet (courtesy wikimedia.org)
Products under names such as K2 and Spice contain the synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018, synthesized by a Clemson University scientist more than a decade ago for research purposes. While the products are marketed as incense, most people buying them use them to achieve a marijuana-like high. Their use has been linked to adverse effects, including vomiting, hallucinations, and agitation.

K2, Spice and similar products began appearing in Europe in 2006 and started showing up in this country last year. They are now banned in most European countries, but not in the US, although the DEA has labeled JWH-018 a "drug of concern."

An increasing number of states are not waiting for the feds to act. This year, K2 was criminalized in Alabama (the same law also outlawed salvia divinorum), Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana (effective August 15), North Dakota, and Tennessee. Similar legislation has been proposed in several more states, including Florida, Illinois, and New York.

Synthetic Cannabinoids: Georgia Becomes Latest State to Ban K2

In a Monday statement, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) announced he had signed into law a bill outlawing the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana in the state. Georgia is the latest in a growing number of states that have moved to criminalize K2.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/spicedrug.jpg
''spice'' packet (courtesy wikimedia.org)
K2 is just one of the names for herbal preparations powdered with a synthetic cannabinoid, JWH-108, created by Clemson University organic chemist John W. Huffman in the mid-1990s. Products sold as Spice, Genie, and Zohai also contain the compound, which produces a high similar to marijuana.

The Georgia bill, HB 1309, places K2 as a Schedule I controlled substance alongside heroin and above cocaine, Ritalin, and opium, which are all Schedule III. The bill passed by a 148-2 vote in the House and a 48-0 vote in the Senate.

"K2 is a potent drug that can be difficult to detect," said Gov. Perdue. "Adding it to our state's banned substances list will protect Georgians' safety and health."

While most users report pot-like highs, some have been showing up in hospital emergency rooms complaining of hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, and vomiting. Dr. Anthony Scalzo of the Missouri Poison Center in St. Louis told USA Today that reports of ER visits for K2 were spreading rapidly.

"At first we had about a dozen cases, but then it really blossomed. By the first week of April, we had 40 cases," said Scalzo. "Missouri remains the epicenter, but it's spreading out." There have been 352 cases of K2 poisoning in 35 states, he said.

Synthetic cannabinoids were banned in Kansas in March and Kentucky in April. An Alabama ban goes into effect July 1, while legislatures in Missouri and Tennessee have passed bans that will go into effect absent a gubernatorial veto. Bills to ban K2 are also under consideration in Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and New York. It is also banned by a number of municipalities scattered across the county.

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