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DEA K2 or Spice looks a lot like real marijuana.

Fake pot, real risks

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Calling all parents: Has your son or daughter taken an interest in tea or have they brought home anything that resembles incense lately?

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If so, be warned: What your child might have is K2 or "Spice," which is basically synthetic cannabis - or what is more commonly known as marijuana.

And for the time being, it is completely legal.

K2 is a mixture of herbs and spices that have been sprayed with a synthetic compound, including the chemicals JWH-018, JWH-703, HU-210, HU-211.

These chemicals are used to mimic THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, according to Scot Umlauf, special agent in charge with the West Central Minnesota Drug Task Force, which includes Douglas County.

Umlauf said the "drug" came out as "Spice" in about 2004 in Europe and has slowly made its way to the states.

Since that time, many places in Europe have made it illegal. For instance, Spice was made illegal in Romania in February of this year. Some of the chemicals used to produce Spice have been made illegal in Germany and in Finland, Spice blends are classified as a medicine and therefore is illegal to buy without a prescription.

In the United States, there are some states that have passed laws making K2 or Spice illegal, including Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri just to name a few.

Umlauf noted that there are 15 states that currently have laws against K2 or Spice.

Minnesota is currently taking steps to make the "fake pot" illegal, he said. (See related story.)

Umlauf noted that recently the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classified K2 or Spice as a Schedule 1 substance, which means, he said, that it is an unsafe, highly abused substance with no medical usage.

People usually consume K2 by smoking it, typically in some type of pipe or bong, or maybe in a joint, just like marijuana. Some also mix it into tea.

Ironically, Umlauf said the packages of the herbs and spices specifically are marked with the warning: Not for human consumption.

"It's supposed to be like incense," he said. "That's what it is intended for. Not for smoking."

The effects, according to Umlauf, include panic attacks, giddiness, paranoia and/or hallucinations.

The cost can vary, but can range anywhere from $45 to $75 per package.

It can be purchased in various places and can even be found locally, said Umlauf.

"It is here. It is in our middle and high schools. And it is dangerous," he stressed. "Parents need to be aware. They need to talk to their kids about it and not put their heads in the sand."

For more information about K2, visit the Get Smart About Drugs website, which is a resource for parents from the DEA, at www.getsmartaboutdrugs.com.

JUST THE FACTS

K2 or "Spice" is a mixture of herbs and spices that is typically sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It is often marketed as incense or "fake weed." Here are some other facts:

Street names: Bilss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Genie, Spice or Zohai.

Looks like: K2 is typically sold in small, silvery plastic bags. It is dried leaves and marketed as incense that can be smoked. It is said to resemble potpourri.

Methods of abuse: K2 products are usually smoked in joints or pipes, but some users make it into tea.

Effects on mind/body: Psychological effects are similar to those of marijuana and include paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness. Physiological effects include increased heart rate and increased blood pressure. It appears to be stored in the body for long periods of time, and therefore the long-term effects on humans are not fully known.

Source: Get Smart About Drugs, a resource for parents from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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