by Jeff Gore
Attention, synthetic cannabis connoisseurs: you have two hours to get to your nearest corner store to stock up on K2, Mr. Nice Guy, Spice, and any other "incenses" that you've enjoyed over the past year. At midnight, it might all be gone.
On Nov. 24, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that in "no fewer than 30 days," the five chemicals most prevalent in "fake pot" would be listed in the Federal Register as Schedule 1 substances, which means that selling, possessing, or using the otherwise benign herbs soaked in the chemicals would soon become illegal. (The growing popularity of the drug, and its concomitant social and economic effects, graced the cover of the Orlando Weekly in April of this year.)
The DEA won't necessarily ban the lifeblood of fake pot tomorrow -- Christmas Eve is merely the first day that DEA is legally able to follow through with the threatened action, if it so chooses. "Is it tomorrow?" DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden rhetorically asked. "I don't think so, but I don't know that for sure."
(Technically, the ban is a temporary measure while the feds study the drug – the DEA filed a “Notice of Intent to Temporarily Control” the chemicals for at least 12 months, with the option of a six-month extension.)
Still, it doesn't seem like anybody is taking any chances. One visit and four calls to local head shops revealed that all were discontinuing sales of its "incenses"—which, of course, are not for human consumption—by the end of business today. Those head shop employees with whom the Weekly was allowed to converse at any length said that they were unaware that the deadline might not actually be tomorrow.
Because K2 and similar "fake pot" prodcuts will still be available—albeit illegally—after the ban, the ones that will miss them the most will likely be the sellers, especially the gas stations which see many more people pass through its doors than the average head shop. At a Citgo station across from the Altamonte Mall, for example, employee Nasif Sihan was reminiscing about the drug less than 24 hours after he had sold his last package of Mr. Nice Guy. "That stuff sold itself," he says. "We were making, like, 900 percent profit," he adds, mentioning that packages of K2 which cost the station $2 were turned around for $10. He estimates that the station was selling 30 to 50 packs a day. "I'm pretty sure everybody made a lot of money from it," he says.
Because the substance is an unregulated "incense," a 14 year-old could buy K2 from a gas station like Sihan’s Citgo. But Sihan says he would check identification anyways. "The supplier told us to ID the kids just for ethical purposes," he says, though he adds that most of the buyers were clearly adults.
Dawn Dearden says that the DEA utilized special powers to get K2 off the shelves as quickly as possible. “This is unique in that normally, when you schedule a drug, Health & Human Services and other agencies get involved, and it takes longer,” she says. “But because of the imminent danger of these chemicals that we’re seeing, we were able to do an emergency scheduling.”
No studies have yet been conducted on the effects of synthetic pot on humans—which is precisely the concern of many health professionals. The negative side effects of K2 sometimes resemble those of pot--hallucinations have been reported--but can also be worse, as "dangerously high blood pressure" has been attributed to the drug. A release from the DEA says that the agency has “received an increasing number of reports” from poison centers and hospitals linked to the drug.
(The Weekly will be providing the above package of K2 as a Christmas gift for more adventurous colleagues, but only provided that it is still legal on Christmas Day, of course.)