Thursday, Feb 25, 2010 @09:48pm CST
(Springfield, MO) -- Unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, you've no doubt heard of K2. It's a blend of herbs and sold as incense.
It also contains a type of synthetic cannabinoid which mimics the effects of marijuana. Some people smoke it, others want to outlaw it. But have you ever seen it up close?
Plenty of people in Springfield see it up close every day. Spend a few minutes watching the checkout counter at Springfield's Incense and Peppermints and you can tell K2 is a hot seller.
One sale after another, cash comes in and K2 goes out. A three gram bag costs about $25. And one Springfield college students considers it money well spent.
"It just kind of makes your body feel light," says Tony, a 20-year-old student who works part time at a local restaurant. He didn't give his last name.
Tony says he grew up near St. Louis, but never heard of K2 until he moved to Springfield. He says several of his friends smoke it.
"Compared to pot, I don't smoke as much, you don't need to," Tony says, explaining that K2, particularly K2 Summit, is fairly potent. "You can take one hit of it, one drag of it, and you're pretty much done. And the high is not going to last as long either so it's not going to carry with you all day."
On a recent Saturday, Tony smoked K2 before lunch. He says he has to be at work that evening. He says his boss is okay with it as long as it doesn't interfere with work and he doesn't show up high.
After one hit Tony appears somewhat more mellow, but is still lively and conversational. He stops with one drag, explaining that if he took another hit he might be tempted to take a nap rather than clean his apartment.
The K2 package is clearly marked 'not for consumption,' there's no list of ingredients, no manufacturer's information and no indication of K2's long-term health effects. When asked if this concerns him, Tony says not at all.
"We don't really know what's in our food either," he says.
As of now, there is no way to test for K2 in a drug screen, which is advantageous for a patron at Incense & Peppermints who's on parole.
"I smoke it because I won't fail a drug test," says a thirty-something who says his name is Sterling. "And it's basically the same as I feel on marijuana. It even gives you the munchies. I try to do it every day."
Store owner Pamela Samson says sales of K2 are booming and so is tax revenue.
"I'll pay more in taxes than I have since I've had the store," she says, speaking frankly about what K2 does and how media coverage has hyped the story.
"Every time I've done an interview, the next day my business rocks," she chuckles.
Pamela says incense is meant to be inhaled, but she can't control how people inhale K2 or any incense when they leave the store. She figures that if law enforcement raids her store for K2, officers will have to remove all her incense.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott says the sheriff's office hasn't had a whole lot of trouble with K2, outside of one user who smoked it until he passed out. He adds that officers would only cite a user if he or she was impaired.
Tony says he wouldn't drive a car under the influence of K2, comparing it to driving under the influence of alcohol.
"Not smart," he says. "You shouldn't do it."
But if Tony did drive, barring an accident, there's little law enforcement could do. When asked if officers could arrest someone for lighting up a pipe filled with K2 right in front of him, Sheriff Arnott gave an emphatic 'no.'
Pamela Samson fears that if K2 is made illegal, users will have to go to drug houses or perhaps meth labs to buy it undercover, putting them in contact with more dangerous drugs.
"As it is now, people come in to a retail store and buy their K2 just like they do like alcohol and cigarettes and you're not exposed to those other drugs," Samson says. "I just think they're unleashing something really dangerous and it's not the K2."
Samson adds that she'd rather see law enforcement take care of meth labs and the city worry about potholes in the roads.
"Those issues affect more people," she says.
There is currently a bill in the Missouri legislature that would add K2 to the state's list of illegal drugs, and recently the Pettis County Commission voted to outlaw it. It appears this might be a deterrent because Tony says he would stop smoking K2 if it were made illegal.
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