It’s time to ban herbal products abused as pot

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Herbal products that have become a dangerous but legal substitute for marijuana need to be banned. Spencer County commissioners did that last week and at least one state legislator is looking to do the same statewide. We support them and encourage county leaders here to consider a similar ban – soon.

“K2” is a brand name for a legal product consisting of a blend of dried herbs that has been sprayed with a chemical and that when smoked, produces a euphoria similar to that of marijuana.   

The product is frequently sold as herbal incense and is sometimes marketed under other names such as Spice, Genie, Blaze, Red X, Dawn or Zohai.

The highs users receive from the products have become increasingly popular among teens. As of last week these types of herbal products were available in at least one local store. Local police know they’re being abused but the products remain legal.

The high produced by marijuana comes from a psychoactive chemical called tetra-hydrocannabinol, better known as THC. K2 doesn’t contain THC. Rather it contains one of two synthetic chemicals that mimic THC by acting on the same receptors in the user’s brain.

In addition to its mind-altering effects on the brain, a concern is that the synthetic chemicals in the product are unregulated in the United States and are often produced in China.

K2 is likely manufactured in Asia and exported to the United States through Europe. The only information contained on the product’s packaging is “not for human consumption.” But people looking for a high ignore that label.

The synthetic chemicals in K2 can be dangerous and are many times more potent than the THC that occurs naturally in marijuana. K2 can cause increased heart rate, loss of consciousness, paranoia, hallucinations and psychotic episodes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, intoxication from THC can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem-solving, and trouble with learning and memory functions.

Nationally, the Drug Enforcement Administration has classified chemicals used to make synthetic cannabinoids as “drugs and chemicals of concern,” but currently, the chemicals are not federally regulated or prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act.

Kentucky and several other states have already acted to ban the substances, but Indiana isn’t one of them, at least not yet. State Sen. Ron Alting of Lafayette is leading a fight against synthetic cannabnoids and working to enact stiff penalties for using and selling the products.

“Ingredients in these drugs have not even been scientifically and medically tested on humans. Anyone who is smoking this stuff is in danger, as might be their children, family members and friends,” Alting said in a news release issued last week through his office.

We agree with Alting and encourage any local retailers carrying these products to immediately take them off of the shelves. We also encourage parents to talk with their kids about the dangers of using these unregulated products. Finally, county commissioners need to adopt an ordinance like the one approved last week in Spencer County making the products’ sale illegal.

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