K2 in Callaway

Police, retailers and former users weigh in on synthetic cannabinoids

Law enforcement agencies in Callaway County and throughout the state say that the designer drug synthetic cannabinoids, such as these brand-name packages siezed from G.I. Joe Gun and Pawn in Fulton during a search in December, are becoming a more widespread problem. Police say the chemists involved in manufacturing these drugs often tweak chemicals to avoid positive test results, and many vendors are selling them under the assumption that they are legal.

Law enforcement agencies in Callaway County and throughout the state say that the designer drug synthetic cannabinoids, such as these brand-name packages siezed from G.I. Joe Gun and Pawn in Fulton during a search in December, are becoming a more widespread problem. Police say the chemists involved in manufacturing these drugs often tweak chemicals to avoid positive test results, and many vendors are selling them under the assumption that they are legal.

Hollywood grit and glamour depict drug deals as covert operations, occurring in some secluded alley or wealthy cartel’s manor.

But in Callaway County, they might be handled as over-the-counter transactions.

This is what local law enforcement say is going on with synthetic cannabinoids, a designer drug commonly referred to as incense or by brand names such as K2 or Spice.

It’s a drug that police and former users say is expensive, addictive and dangerous, and despite legislation, it is difficult to enforce and prevent stores from selling.

What is it

Synthetic cannabis or cannabinoids are psychoactive drugs made up of a natural herbal substance laced with synthetic chemicals that are meant to replicate the effects of marijuana.

The drug is often sold in packages labeled as a type of herbal incense, marketed as legal and “not for human consumption.”

There are few documented studies on K2’s effects. Some replicate marijuana and provide a sense of calmness, but large doses can reportedly cause blackouts, aggression or anxiety in some people. Police say a lack of quality control means the companies and chemists manufacturing synthetic cannabinoids might eyeball or change ingredients.

“It’s not FDA approved,” said Fulton Police Department Lt. Andre Cook, whose department suspects about three or four shops sell the substance in Fulton. “It’s sold as incense and used for consumption, and all of these chemicals could kill in a certain amount.”

The result is a product that might vary in composition from batch to batch, meaning one packet of the same brand might have a different chemical makeup entirely.

Chemical compounds in the substance have been banned by several states, including Missouri in 2010, and are currently classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance under the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, signed by President Barack Obama. However, chemists also change the makeup of the chemicals involved, making them fall technically outside of the definitions of “synthetic cannabinoids” under existing legislation.

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