Cover Story: K2 Ban Comes As Our Story Goes To Press, And We Are Kinda Happy

I have to say, I kind of wondered when the Drug Enforcement Agency was going to crack down on K-2 and other THC-simulating substances. What's more, although I am pretty Libertarian when it comes to drugs, I was relieved.

It was easy to predict the DEA ban for the simple reason that as our feature story shows, some, if not all, K-2 products worked. Simply put, some of them got you stoned, and there are powerful people in this country who don't want any of us to take any but the officially authorized routes -- booze and prescription drugs, chiefly -- to altered realities.

Big Beer and Big Whiskey don't like competition, and whenever any new party drug has popped up, their lobbyists have been among the first to get the politicos riled up about whatever mayhem the drugs cause, while blithely ignoring the daily swath of destruction alcohol leaves in its wake.

Our society shrugs. We believe in that Homer Simpson toast: "To Alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."

So while there's an element of hypocrisy to the whole deal, the way things were with K2 were unsustainable. Since it was marketed as incense and labeled "Not for human consumption," there was absolutely no quality control. One toke of the stuff in some bags could have you riding a winged two-headed panda bear over a paisley Great Wall of China, while the next could leave you projectile-vomiting and in a state of twitchy paralysis in an alley behind a bar. The third could be a straight-up burn bag; $20 flushed down the toilet with no hope of a refund.

So it was a crapshoot, and worse, even 12-year-olds could buy the stuff no questions asked.

Although I am a parent of a teenager, I don't believe in dishonesty about the dangers of drugs, or in the alarmist diatribes of the ban-everything crowd. But as a parent, this stuff scared me -- it scared me more than weed, more than alcohol, more even than stuff like ecstasy, mushrooms and LSD, and less only than potentially instantly fatal or irreversibly damaging things like meth, inhalants, prescription drugs and heroin.

Some of these K-2 things were just too damn powerful for young souls to weather, yet any kid with a healthy allowance was allowed to buy them at will. And none of the physical or psychological effects of any of the dozens of THC compounds in these products have been studied at all. And you couldn't legalize and regulate them without years of study, and why bother doing all that, when all these things were supposed to be were mimics of a weed that grows freely the world over?

The whole thing seems like a sideshow, albeit an occasionally amusing one, in the fight to legalize weed.

Meanwhile, according to our sister blog in St. Louis, no sooner has the DEA tamped down this little menace than an apparently worse one has emerged: Ivory Wave, a cocaine-mimicking powder that is marketed as "bath salts" and labeled "not for human consumption. According to various reports, this stuff has killed two Brits including a newlywed woman and recently sent a Missouri girl to the loony bin.

What's next? A meth substitute labeled as baby powder? Fake heroin masquerading as Afghan cooking spices? Synthetic shrooms marketed as voodoo goofer dust?

Only time, modern psychopharmacology, and good-old American salesmanship will tell.

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