By Maddie Fetchiet
An alternative, legal form of marijuana known as K2 is gaining popularity despite its proven harmful effects on humans. However, Michigan legislatures are pushing to ban the substance all together.
Michigan is currently wrestling with the legal terms of using and selling this spice. Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky and Kansas have already banned K2 and Michigan, along with other states, are currently working on legislation to ban all forms of the substance, according to an article by ABC News.
According to Roy Mays, Manager of Global Investigations and Contract Security Services at Ford Motor Company and former police officer, laws regarding controlled substances are regulated either by federal or state governments. The FDC and CDC determine what substances need to be controlled by government regulation, then substances can be legalized for human consumption and distribution.
However, Mays notes that without the sufficient testing of these substances, the government has no reason to control them.
“K2 is too new and has never been studied, so they have no reason to control it and there is no proof that they need to control it,” Mays said. “Trial studies take a couple of years, and K2 is only two or three years old, so there have not been any completed studies thus far.”
Legally, K2 can be sold and marketed under the label of incense, but Mays is concerned that keeping a substance legal that alters the state of the mind and body can have many consequences.
“The obvious consequences of legality are similar to medicinal marijuana. It’s supposedly controlled but if you have a doctor’s permission or medical card, you can possess and consume the drug and reap the benefits of the THC or whatever the euphoric substance is that is getting people high,” Mays said.
K2 has effects on the mind and body comparable to marijuana, but the drug is considered poisonous to humans, and is not intended for humans to smoke, according to an article by ABC News. Still, K2 remains attractive because it is legal in most states, including Michigan, making it easy for people to get their hands on.
According to an article by ABC News, K2 is a “spice” containing the active ingredient JWH-018. Currently, Michigan has banned the JWH-018 ingredient, but the manufacturers of K2 have replaced it with similar acting ingredients that are sprayed on the spice, and resemble THC, according to a manager (who requested anonymity) at In Flight, a smoke shop located on Grand River in East Lansing.
While a drug labeled as a “spice” may seem harmless, you wouldn’t want to mix this one up in your spice cabinet.
Dr. Christopher Rosenbaum, a toxicologist and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts is an expert on K2, and has seen the harmful effects it has first-hand.
“People are reporting seizures, vomiting, accelerated heart rate and blood pressure, and requiring hospital care,” Rosenbaum said in an email.
Rosenbaum warns that the synthetic cannabinoids used in K2 are often unidentifiable, making it difficult to test their effects and do research on the substances.
While it seems that the dangerous effects of K2 outweigh the attraction to getting high, K2 remains a popular substance sold in everyday convenience stores and smoke shops. Michigan State University students report purchasing K2 at various locations in East Lansing, including the BP gas station on Michigan Avenue, and In Flight, a smoke shop located on Grand River Avenue.
According to the manager at In Flight, K2 is sold at their store legally, with prices ranging from $15 for 1.5 grams, to $30 for 3 grams of the substance. However, students are reporting steeper prices at different K2 retailers.
“Prices can get to $20 or $25 a gram for the really expensive stuff,” said an MSU sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous.
Still, prices are not the main concern for most K2 users. Students, store managers selling K2, and doctors point out the dangers of experimenting with the spice, but have also found consistent patterns in the costumers buying it.
A female sophomore at MSU, who has also asked to remain anonymous, sees a direct correlation between K2 users and people that are on probation for marijuana or alcohol abuse.
“The popularity comes from potheads that are on probation or trying to “drop clean” (have a clean urine test) for a job. Honestly, besides those two groups of people, I don’t usually hear much about K2,” the student said.
The manager at In Flight agrees, reporting that 99 percent of people purchasing K2 at their store are either on probation and in need of a clean urine sample, or are employed at places that drug test their workers on a regular basis.
“A lot of workers doing heavy labor are drug tested a lot so they buy K2 because it doesn’t show up on drug tests,” the In Flight manager said. “The construction guys working on the new museum come over and buy it all the time.”
According to K2 users and distributors, the scariest part of using the substance is its unpredictable nature. While some report feeling a similar high to the effects of marijuana, more serious and unpleasant side effects can occur, and students say that K2 is often not worth the risk.
“The effects are similar to weed. You’re dazed, giggly and have horrible munchies, but it only lasts about 15 minutes,” the female MSU sophomore said. “It’s not worth it in my opinion, but makes sense for people with specific circumstances.”