K-2 sales banned across Arkansas

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

LITTLE ROCK -- In a special called meeting at the Arkansas Department of Health recently, the Arkansas Board of Health approved a measure to ban the sale and distribution of the synthetic marijuana substitute commonly called K-2. The newly adopted emergency rule will become effective immediately upon Governor Mike Beebe's signature.

The 24-member board, made up primarily of health professionals, also voted to begin the regular rule-making process, since the emergency rule will only be effective for 120 days. The regular rule-making process will take about three months to complete, because it involves a 30-day public comment period and review by two legislative committees, the Public Health and Welfare Committee and the Rules and Regulations Committee, legislative sub-committees that represent both the state House and Senate.

Paul Halverson, State Health Officer and Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, said the new regulation represents a partnership with the criminal justice system for purposes of enforcement.

"This new law is not intended to place people into the criminal justice system," Halverson said.

"This regulation is intended to educate the public about the dangers this drug and illicit drug use, especially by minors. Enforcement responsibilities will fall primarily to local law enforcement and prosecutors."

Violation of the new law will be a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 or by imprisonment not exceeding one month, or both. Each day of violation shall constitute a separate offense.

Every firm, person, or corporation who violates this rule may also be assessed a civil penalty by the board. The penalty shall not exceed $1,000 for each violation. Each day of a continuing violation may be deemed a separate violation for purposes of penalty assessments.

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.

Manufactured primarily in China, the substance 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.

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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