Arkansas considering statewide ban of K-2

Friday, July 2, 2010

LITTLE ROCK -- A special meeting of the Arkansas State Board of Health was been set for Friday, July 2, at 9 a.m., to consider a proposal to ban the sale of K-2, a synthetic marijuana product that is currently being sold legally in many parts of the state, because no existing state or federal law prevents its sale or use.

According to Joe Bates, MD, Deputy State Health Officer and Chief Science Officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, some new research results from the State Public Health Laboratory and the State Crime Laboratory have prompted the move.

"We have learned that both the potency levels of the drug itself and the consistency with which it is applied varies a great deal in samples we have obtained here in the state," Bates added. "What that means is that there may be no way to know when you are about to inhale too much of this drug, which concerns us especially when it is being used by young people and children. The specific biological effects and interactions among these chemical compounds are largely unknown."

Animal studies have shown that these substances may be four to 10 times more potent than the active ingredient in marijuana. Reports from poison control centers, emergency rooms and private physicians in Arkansas and around the country indicate that use of this substance, alone or in combination with other substances, may cause symptoms including a rapid heart rate, dangerously high blood pressure and sometimes hallucinations or paranoia.

According to Bates, it is clear that there are negative effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular and central nervous system that are dangerous. It is also likely that impaired judgment would be a safety risk to drivers or operators of heavy equipment.

The Department of Health issued an advisory on March 17 to physicians in the state about possible side-effects that have been reported from the use of the marijuana-like substance.

The substance, manufactured primarily in China, contains a chemical compound that has no known beneficial commercial use, and has not been approved by the FDA for human use. These synthetic chemicals are sprayed on a dried plant material which is then smoked and inhaled.

The cannabinoid-like substance in this product acts on the same brain receptors as does marijuana. A great many of these substances have been synthesized and it would not be possible to know how much or which, if any, of these many synthetics are present in K-2 without doing an extensive chemical analysis.

K-2 and similar products do not test positive as marijuana or as any other illicit substance when subjected to urine drug testing.

"However, we have found a way to test urine samples from individuals who have used the substance that will indicate whether K-2 has been used by someone or not," Bates said. "Until now, we didn't have a way to prove that." The active ingredient in K-2 does not show up on any standard drug screens.

The substance has been banned in several cities and counties in Arkansas and in some states, including Kansas, Kentucky and Alabama. Legislatures in Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee have passed bans that will take effect unless vetoed by their governors. Other states are also acting to make this substance illegal, but no similar action has yet been taken at the state or federal level that would make its use illegal.

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