David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that 21 individuals involved in the ownership and operation of 13 retail outlets and other businesses in Springfield, Joplin and elsewhere have been indicted by a federal grand jury – in separate but related cases – for distributing millions of dollars of synthetic drugs, commonly referred to as K2.
A series of six indictments were returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield this week. The indictments were unsealed and made public following the arrests and initial court appearances of several defendants.
The indictments are the result of a large-scale investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies into the distribution of K2, the slang term for synthetic cannabinoid products. K2 is a mixture of plant material that has been sprayed or mixed with a synthetic chemical compound similar to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. K2 products are often labeled as “incense,” but in reality are intended for human consumption as a drug.
Currently, there are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoid compounds in these products. Synthetic cannabinoid products are commonly purchased in novelty shops, head shops, tobacco shops, convenience stores, adult stores and over the Internet. Users of these products have reported effects similar to marijuana, but many times greater, including paranoia, panic attacks, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure.
Synthetic Designer Drugs
Over the past several years, smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. These synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as Spice, K2, Blaze, and Red X Dawn are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.
K2 is a controlled substance analogue, which is any product with a chemical structure substantially similar to the chemical structure of a controlled substance and which has similar effects on the central nervous system as a controlled substance. While many of the designer drugs being marketed today are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act, the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. This analogue provision specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.