News

K-2 Furor in F.C. Draws School Board Appeal to Outlaw Drug

035texasgoldThe Falls Church School Board took action last week to formally request the Virginia State Legislature to join over a dozen states and jurisdictions in the U.S. and pass a new law making the sale and consumption of the synthetic marijuana-like substance, known as K2, illegal.

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A PACKAGE OF K2 available, legally, over-the-counter at a Falls Church store. “Texas Gold” is just one of a variety of K2 brand names on the market. (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church School Board took action last week to formally request the Virginia State Legislature to join over a dozen states and jurisdictions in the U.S. and pass a new law making the sale and consumption of the synthetic marijuana-like substance, known as K2, illegal.

Since the beginning of the school year last month, the awareness of the “synthetic cannabinoid” has grown dramatically, with varying reports of widespread use in the City due in part by its legal over-the-counter availability for sale at a new City business, Arabica Tobacco. The store is located less than two blocks from George Mason High School.

Reported producing a “high” similar to marijuana, the product is a synthetic chemical, and its developer, Clemson University Chemistry Professor Dr. John W. Huffman, is quoted saying, “People who use this are idiots. You have no idea what it’s going to do to you.”

He added, “No one should confuse this product with marijuana. This is guys standing around in a factory wearing rubber boots and spraying chemicals on dried leaves.” It began as a research project in 1995, and was never conceived to have a commercial application.

K2 first started appearing in Europe by 2004, and is already banned throughout Europe, in the U.S. military, and U.S. Customs has placed a ban on its importation.

In an interview with the News-Press, the store owner, named Ali, said he is careful to require proof of age from “anyone who looks like they’re under 30,” noting that 18 is the legal age minimum for the K2 he sells, as well as the many other tobacco products, including hookah tobaccos and quality cigars, he offers in his store, which also has a stunning display of hookahs of all sizes and colors.

Whereas his hookahs come from all over the Middle East, the K2 all comes from California.

Still, the matter came to the F.C. School Board’s attention by way of the Falls Church Police’s School Resource Officer Steve Rau. He said he’d been contacted by a couple of parents expressing concern, he told the News-Press yesterday. They told him the K2 was “becoming popular,” and he acquired a fact sheet that he then took to a meeting of the Falls Church Alliance for Youth, an umbrella group of organizations focused on youth concerns, a couple weeks ago.

Also present at that meeting was Falls Church School Superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin.

The fact sheet, prepared by the Prevention Resource Center of the San Antonio, Texas, on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, reported that K2, also known as “Spice,” is composed of dried herbs laced with synthetic cannabindoids like JWH-018 and HU-210 that produce similar results to the active THC ingredient in marijuana.

It has slang names like Spice Mojo, Spice Gold, Spice Diamond, Blaze, Red X, Dawn, Zohai, Red Dragon, Spice Genie and Gemini.

Side effects have been reported as delusions, hallucinations, loss of consciousness, paranoia, increased aggravation, panic attacks, dilated pupils, elevated blood pressure, heart rate and vomiting, and two death may be linked to its use, according to the fact sheet.

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A STUNNING DISPLAY of hookahs imported from all over the Middle East cover a full wall in the recently-opened Arabica Tobacco store in downtown Falls Church, where K2 is also sold legally. (Photo: News-Press)

Officer Rau told the News-Press he has received no reports of due of K2 on the George Mason High or Henderson Middle School facilities, and that he’s provided the San Antonio fact sheet to the administrators at the Mason and Henderson schools.

School Board Chair Joan Wodiska alerted the News-Press to the School Board’s action last week to include a request for a ban of the active substance in K2 to its package of requests to the Virginia state legislature, which will convene after Jan 1.

She and School Board member Rosaura Aguerrebere said that initial contact with state legislators representing Falls Church received a very favorable response.

Before the School Board’s action last week, parents with students at George Mason had begun reporting anecdotal accounts to the News-Press of widespread use among students, noting its rapid rise in popularity and the proximity of a store selling it to the high school campus.

The first ban on K2 in the U.S. became effective barely six months ago in Kansas, and over a dozen other states and localities followed with, or are considering bans, initiated by legislative action or public health officials. Until a year ago, it was virtually unknown in the U.S.

Toxicologists at three universities and two government agencies have launched studies into the effects of K2. One, Dr. Anthony Scalzo at Saint Louis University reported to the Associated Press in March that he’d seen more than 30 cases of Missouri teenagers having hallucinations, severe agitation, elevated heart rates, vomiting and seizures.

 


Eamonn Rockwell contributed to this report.