There is a new product on the drug market – fake marijuana. The substance mimics the drug’s effects on the brain and is simple to purchase. It is becoming a challenge for law enforcement in a few states. Known as K2 or "Spice," "Genie" and "Zohai", the product is sold in head shops as incense. It is made in China and Korea and is a combination of herbs and spices sprayed with a synthetic mixture chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
K2 is banned in most of Europe, but since its main ingredients are not regulated in the United States, states like Missouri and Kansas are now thinking about new legislation. The product is becoming popular with high school students. It costs between $20 and $50 for three grams, which is close to the cost of marijuana. It is more attractive to people because it is legal and can not be detected in drug tests.
Dr. John Huffman, a chemistry professor at Clemson University, was researching the effects of cannabinoids on the brain when his efforts resulted in a 1995 paper that published the method and ingredients for the mixture. That "secret" recipe found its way to marijuana users, who then reproduced Huffman’s work and began spraying it onto dried flowers, herbs and tobacco.
"People who use it are idiots," said Huffman.
A proposed bill in Missouri would make possession of K2 a felony, punishable by up to seven years in jail. In Kansas, a similar proposed bill would make possession a misdemeanor with up to a yar in jail and a $2,500 fine.
In the rural southern Missouri city of West Plains, K2 is sold in head shops just blocks from the high school. A foiled attempt by teenagers to steal K2 from the store alerted police to the problem.
"A 10-year-old child could walk into a head ship and buy it," said West Plains Detective Shawn Rhoads. "It’s not a tobacco, it’s not regulated by anything. It would be like sending my 10-year-old son into WalMart to buy potpourri."
The military has banned possession of K2 and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has classified the substance as a "drug or chemical of concern."