By Brandon Sayers
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
People from around the Kansas City area are coming to Lawrence to buy a legal drug called K2 that gets them as high as marijuana, according to area police.
Tom Erickson, a deputy sheriff for the Johnson County Sheriff’s office, said the office was one of the first to become aware of the drug. They said they first heard about it through criminals released on parole or probation who were using the smokable herb to circumvent the random drug testing process. Erickson said police studied the herb’s chemical makeup, which looks and burns like marijuana, and interviewed a number of people who have used the drug.
THC, as defined by Merriam Webster:
either of two physiologically active isomers from hemp plant resin; especially : one that is the chief intoxicant in marijuana
an herb that looks and burns like marijuana which tests suggest contains a synthetic version of THC
“They say it’s the same type of high as standard street grade marijuana,” Erickson said.
Erickson said each person the police spoke to said they thought K2 was at least as potent, if not more so, than marijuana — no one the police spoke to said K2 was any less potent.
K2 is being sold at a downtown Lawrence shop, Sacred Journey, 1103 Massachusetts St. The product sells for about $10 per gram, although prices vary depending on the potency of the herb.
Erickson said the police purchased K2 in Lawrence and brought it back to Johnson County to test the chemical breakup of the product. He said the tests suggested that K2 contained a synthetic version of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
“It’s definitely not a form of marijuana,” Erickson said, “but it mimics the effects on the body,”
A senior named John, who asked that his last name be withheld, said he was a regular marijuana smoker who decided to try K2 recently after hearing about it in the news.
John said he thought K2 produced a bodily effect similar to marijuana but only tasted “OK.” He said there were a number of other reasons why he wouldn’t make K2 his drug of choice.
“It’s a relaxing feeling, but it doesn’t have the head high of weed,” John said. “It’s nothing straight to the dome like weed.”
John said he thought those who did not smoke marijuana regularly would find K2 to be more potent than he did. However, because of the price and availability of marijuana in the area, John said he would stick with the illegal product.
“Great weed in this town is so readily available that I’d much rather just go to a dealer than some store,” John said.
The synthetic form of THC found in K2 was discovered during research at Clemson University in South Carolina. John Huffman, Clemson research professor of chemistry, said one of his students discovered the chemical while studying the effects of pharmaceuticals on the brain. The student named the compound after Huffman’s initials, JWH-018.
Huffman said though he did not personally study the bodily effects of K2, a group of collaborators at Virginia Commonwealth University studied the effects the drug had on mice and noted its similarities to marijuana.
“It indicated that the compound was significantly more potent than THC,” Huffman said.
Huffman said he would not recommend anyone consume K2 or drugs similar to it.
“The problem with JWH-018 is that absolutely nothing is known regarding its toxicity or metabolites,” Huffman said. “Therefore, it is potentially dangerous and should not be used.”
At this point, police said they agreed with Huffman.
“At least with marijuana we know the short- and long-term health effects,” Erickson said. “It’s a terrible idea to ingest something that you don’t understand.”
A senior named Spencer, who asked that his last name be withheld, said he occasionally smoked marijuana and tried K2 after friends recommended it to him.
Spencer said he enjoyed smoking K2, but didn’t expect he would become a regular user of the legal herb.
“I wouldn’t describe it as much as a high as a relaxed state,” Spencer said. “I think I’ll stick with the good ol’ fashioned marijuana when I want to get high,”
Spencer said he didn’t think the legality of marijuana factored into his decision much because he smoked marijuana safely and didn’t expect to have any problems with the law in the future. Police said though K2 would show up on a drug test, it was still a legal substance so its presence wouldn’t be punishable. However, Spencer said he wouldn’t even smoke K2 if he was facing such a test.
“I’d rather just keep smoking weed and take a masking agent,” Spencer said. “It’s easy to pass a drug test.”
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