Christmas K2 ban draws ire, earns support

The DEA has banned the synthetic marijuana product and others like it, effective Dec. 24.

Sarah Nienaber

Synthetic marijuana use will be up in smoke by Christmas.
The Drug Enforcement Administration decided late last month to ban synthetic marijuana products like K2, leading to mixed reactions from sellers and users.
Starting Dec. 24, K2 and other synthetic marijuana products are classified as controlled substances and will be banned for one year as further studies are conducted. The DEA reserves the right to extend control for six months while the Department of Health and Human Services studies whether the chemicals should be permanently controlled.
Any time after Dec. 24, these products will be treated like any other schedule one narcotic, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said.
Hideaway Head Shop owner Wally Sakallah believes the ban is a result of widespread misuse of the product, which he says is actually marketed as incense, though consumers may have other uses.
âÄúThe game is not over,âÄù he said.
Sakallah said new products similar to K2 are already available and are on the shelves of Hideaway, a Dinkytown business. These, he says, will most likely be the big sellers after K2 becomes illegal.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy president Zach Tauer said the ban is a waste of tax dollars.
âÄúItâÄôs just a waste of money,âÄù he said. âÄúProhibition doesnâÄôt work, and if they are going to keep prohibiting more substances itâÄôs going to waste money and create a black market.âÄù
Tauer said another implication may be people using it just because it is illegal.
Right now, K2 is selling quickly, Sakallah said, and he believes that he will be out before the ban takes effect Dec. 24. Customers at Hideaway are buying K2 in larger amounts, evidently stocking up before it is officially criminalized, Sakallah said.
DEA research shows synthetic marijuana products are being widely abused across the country, causing many emergency room visits and problems like hallucinations, leading to the impending ban, Payne  said.
Pre-health first year Tyler Kovensky said he believes the ban is âÄúdefinitely a good thing.âÄù
KovenskyâÄôs support of the ban stems from personal experience. One of his friends experimented with K2 and appeared to be in an unresponsive state after using what Kovensky described to be a âÄúsmall amount.âÄù
âÄúThe problem with K2 is that it doesnâÄôt have the same effect on everybody,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs basically playing Russian Roulette every time you smoke it.âÄù
Students and other users of synthetic marijuana (formally called synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol) are probably looking for an intended high, Boynton Health Service, spokesman Dana Farley said.  But that high comes with unintended side effects.
âÄúThese are chemicals that are similar in structure to THC, but are not quite the same,âÄù Farley said. The chemicals were initially developed by a chemist to stimulate appetitesá for patients undergoing chemotherapy, but were never intended for human use, he said.
Payne said the DEA has the obligation and responsibility to examine the use of abused substances and to find out if they are indeed harmful.
âÄúPeople think these are harmless alternatives to illegal drugs and thatâÄôs just not the case,âÄù Payne said. âÄúThese are compounds that are harmful.âÄù