Saturday, October 16, 2021

K2 provides legal high similar to pot

December 2, 2009

“It’s legal,” said professional writing freshman Cody Manthei. Manthei poses as he smokes K2, a synthetic cannabinoid, that if smoked has effects similar to marijuana.

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

Whether it’s the mountain on the China/Pakistan border or a simple concoction of aromatic plant matter, make no mistake — K2 will get you high.

K2 is marketed and sold as four different types of incense — Summit, Citron, Blonde and Standard — and three grams can cost anywhere from $20 to $40.

The difference between K2 and other incense is that when smoked, it produces effects similar to those of marijuana.

It is available at Silver Streak and Krazy Katz, 317 E. Grand River Ave., but can be purchased online. Other shops, such as Oz, 551 East Grand River Ave., and In Flight, 507 East Grand River Ave., do not carry K2 because they do not want their products to be associated with anything that is not artistic or tobacco-related.

K2 does not contain THC and is legal to possess, distribute and use.

The active compound, JWH-018, interacts with receptors in the brain that control pain relief, analgesia, body temperature and appetite, giving the user a high similar to smoking marijuana, said John Huffman, an organic chemistry research professor at Clemson University. An undergraduate research student working for Huffman synthesized the compound 14 years ago and christened it JWH in honor of Huffman.

“(JWH-018) happens to be one of the more potent compounds and it is easy to make,” he said.

Huffman said he heard the compounds were being sold by companies in Korea and China.

A representative for the FDA said it had not been approved under its guidelines.

Huffman said one of the concerns with the compound was the long-term effects of use.

“The problem is there is nothing known about the metabolites,” Huffman said “There are currently no toxicity reports for the compound. Except for a few papers that are not real convincing indicating it is potentially carcinogenic, no one has really done any research.”

Lt. Noel Garcia of the Lansing Police Department said the department was not familiar with the product. Calls to the East Lansing Police Department were not returned.

Police departments might not be familiar with the substance because it is not illegal and therefore users cannot be prosecuted.

“Generally, law enforcement doesn’t like these kind of things,” assistant professor of criminal justice Sheila Maxwell said. “If it has consequences — if people are less inhibited like alcohol or the kind of effects that would tend to create disruption in community — (the police) could find something to charge people with.”

Maxwell equated regulation of such substances with the way alcohol is treated — individuals can be charged with operating under the influence, but alcohol is not a prohibited substance.

Legal designations aside, the real question is whether K2 is the real deal. As psychology freshman Jenae Ridge put it, “It’s legit.”

“(The effects) don’t last as long, but you definitely get red eyes and the munchies — I’d say it’s like middies,” she said.

Middies is a term for mid-grade marijuana.

Ridge said she currently is on probation and smokes K2 because she regularly is tested for THC. She said although she worries about what will happen when authorities take notice of K2.

“As soon as my probation people find out about it, they’ll probably start testing for it,” Ridge said. “But I like how it’s not really illegal, but it’s not really legal.”

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