It looks like marijuana, smokes like marijuana, and gets you high like marijuana but it's perfectly legal to buy.
The substance, often called "K-2", "Spice," "Genie," or "Pulse" is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
It's smoked in joints, pipes or bongs, just like the real deal, "it definitely gives you the high, a buzz that lazy, uh feeling kind of like marijuana," a smoker says in his You Tube video.
Although it's labeled "not for human consumption" our undercover video shows a local smoke shop clerk discussing the effects if smoked with our intern posing as a customer, "say I were to try driving afterwards?" The clerk says, "well if you were just burning them in your house like you would incense you won't have any problems." Customer says, "ok, but if I used it in other ways?" Clerk says, "probably have trouble then."
The clerk gives his seal of approval despite the fact these herbal blends are not sold to be smoked, "it's an awesome high." Intern asks, "yeah? you definitely suggest it?" Employee says, "yep."
Andrea Santa Cruz with the Meth Free Alliance worries that teens will be more prone to trying this herbal smoke because there's no law to stop them. If they're 18 they can walk right in and buy the stuff, "they can get the same high, maybe not as long, but they're getting the same high and getting away with it and it's not being detected in drug tests. It just opens so many doors to ugliness in your life."
There's no real science yet to determine what kind of health effects smoking these herbal blends have but the DEA says it can lead to partial paralysis and lower body temperature in mice. Santa Cruz says if it doesn't lead to incarceration, it'll lead to death, "very few people ever walk away from drug addiction clear and free. there's always some baggage that goes along with it."
In the course of doing this story the last couple of weeks, several local smoke shops told me K-2 is being pulled from the shelves. Some of the employees told me because of the recent media publicity and the steps some states are taking (Kansas and Missouri) to criminalize the synthetic compound.
Tom Erickson, a deputy from the Johnson County Sheriff's Office in Kansas, said being legal does not make K2 safe.
Erickson said their county drug lab found the herbal incense product does not contain just herbal ingredients.
"What we found in it was a chemical compound called JWH-018, which is a synthetic cannabinoid," he said. "So it's not just plant material, there's a chemical in it that we have found. It works on the same receptors in the brain that THC does."
THC is the narcotic compound found in marijuana. JWH-018, the synthetic compound, is not a controlled substance.
By Dan Marries
March 1, 2010