K2 ban effective across Ohio

K2 Spice becomes illegal on Monday. Users have compared the drug to marijuana in its effects. Photo illustration by Amber Rowe.

Seth Cohen

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K2 or Spice potpourri products are officially illegal in Ohio on Monday thanks to a 97 to one vote that added the product to House Bill 64.

H.B. 64 states any person in possession of K2 or Spice, depending on the amount, will result in a minor misdemeanor, but anyone caught trafficking the product will face felony 5 charges and felony 4 charges if trafficking in proximity of a school.

Ohio Rep. Sean O’Brian of District 65 voted in favor of adding the potpourri to the bill. He said it’s an easy product for people to get for a good high and as a result, many young adults are going in and out of hospitals.

“People will always try to find a way to get a buzz,” O’Brian said. “We’re trying to make our state a little bit safer.”

According to the K2 label, the product is to be used as incense and not for consumption, but O’Brian said when many teenagers get their hands on it, they start smoking or consuming the product in any form.

As of last week, the Puff N’ Stuff in Kent still sold K2 and other potpourri. Shop representatives refused to do an interview, but a junior international relations major, who preferred not be named, said he’s bought K2 from the smoke shop and has tried it four times with friends.

“The first time I smoked it, I started to trip pretty bad and saw things that are kind of hard to describe,” he said. “The reason I started doing it was because it was cheap and legal.”

After the third time smoking it, the junior said he felt like he was on cocaine, moving around without stopping and couldn’t hold still because his heart was racing.

A sophomore business major, who also preferred his name not printed, said he experienced similar effects when smoking with his friends. He said his friends took him to the hospital because he felt dizzy and passed out.

“It was a scary experience, but I (was) discharged a few hours later,” he said. “I don’t think it should be illegal though, but it should be managed like alcohol.”

Dr. Jason Jerry, staff psychologist for the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center at the Cleveland Clinic, said he’s seen patients who attributed panic attacks, anxiety or hallucinations to K2 use. He also said K2’s ingredients make it mimic the effects of marijuana, but it is more potent with certain compounds such as naphthoyl — one of the synthetic cannabinoids leading to the likely effects of hallucination.

“In 2010, we got 2,874 calls to the poison control center and 2,052 calls this year as a result of an excessive amount of K2,” Jerry said. “I’ve seen cases like this similar to the effects of cocaine or meth. The fact that they say it’s used as aroma therapy is just a ploy.”

Gary Enos, president of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Kent State, said he believes K2 should not be a part of H.B 64 because there will be loop holes for future producers to make the same type of product, but just as lethal.

“I’m not for consuming K2, or any other potpourri because of what I’ve heard and seen,” Enos said. “As dangerous as it may be, putting a ban on it will only result in more products making (their) way to the market. There can be hundreds of chemicals re-released for more alternatives.”

Ohio Rep. Cheryl Grossman of District 23 said she doesn’t like how the potpourri can be sold at smoke shops and gas stations. She said the product has already been banned in several other states such as Georgia, Alabama, Kansas and Illinois and other countries such as Russia, Germany, England and Sweden.

“I’m a mother of two children, Grossman said. “It’s disturbing to know that there are young adults out there who’ve been in and out of hospitals as a result of Spice. I believe this ban will make a difference so children won’t get their hands on it.”

Contact Seth Cohen at [email protected].</</p>