Herbal incense alternative for marijuana

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It's easy to get: K2 herbal incense - also know as Spice and Mojo - is the latest recreational drug of choice and it's legal. Unregulated it's a mixture of herbs and spices sprayed with a chemical compound similar to THC - the main ingredient in marijuana.

Despite being labeled "not for human consumption" it's being smoked like the real thing. According to users: a little bit goes a long way. It costs between 20 to 50 dollars for up to three grams and some users say it's more intense than pot.

You have to be 18 years old to buy it, but not surprisingly it's turning up in the hands of minors - alarming not only parents but doctors.

"I can't imagine doing things like that without knowing what are the possible consequences or long term dangers. I mean the medical field is full of medications that have been researched for years that then get sold and get called back because of problems we didn't foresee," said Dr. Robert Anderson, Director the Emergency Department at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Short term effects of K2 can cause headaches, vomiting, loss of consciousness, elevated blood pressure and in some cases seizures and increased heart rate. Part of it's popularity is it doesn't show up on a drug test.

"One of the biggest problems is it's touted by the people who sell it - that you can't track it - that you can't test it. So it has a lot of problems," explained Dr. Anderson.

Although it is legal - the military has banned k2 and the federal drug enforcement administration has classified it as a "drug of concern."

It's also become a legal alternative for drug abusers. Drug courts across the country have reported problems with K2, including Calcasieu Parish. Judge David Ritchie and Judge Mike Canaday released this statement:

"Fortunately, because of the hard work and effort of our drug court team and the commitment of most of our drug court applicants to overcoming their addictions, the problem has not been widespread. However, since there is no test currently available to detect the synthetic marijuana, it has made our jobs more difficult."

Both judges support a movement by some state legislators to ban K2. House Bill 173 - aims to do just that. But on the other side of the argument are the people who manufacture and sell it. People like Patricia Maynard, who around the first of the year was about to have to close up shop.

"Things were getting pretty slim," said Maynard.

Co-owner of Westlake's Quick Stop Deli, Maynard had never heard of K2.

"I was thinking you know incense in the air, and whenever he told me the prices of it - I thought okay. So he said if you'll just put it on consignment we'll go from there," said Maynard.

Maynard says sales took off. Not only has she been able to keep the lights on, but she's even expanded her business because of the profits she's made from selling K2.

"It really carried us through that time and saved my business," said Maynard.

A multi-million dollar industry for Louisiana, one distributor tells 7 News it's generated more than 500-thousand dollars in sales revenue in Calcasieu Parish - taxable revenue - some argue the state can't afford to lose.

Meanwhile a lot of stakeholders watching House Bill 173. It's already passed the full House and currently is in the Senate.

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