In recent months, at least half a dozen local city councils in North Texas have begun prohibiting the sale or possession of K2, an herbal incense also known as spice that when consumed is supposed to produce marijuana-like highs.
In addition to being undetectable by drug screenings, K2 has seen its popularity rise in part because it is not prohibited by Texas state law and is mostly unregulated by the federal government. With the increasing notoriety of the drug, a story this week foreshadows that some statewide action could be taken when the legislature reconvenes next year.
A K2 packing and distribution operation in Fort Worth was forced to close this week over some ticky-tack city code violations, including not having an occupancy license. Of course, the likely reason the business owner had not spent the money to receive permission from the city is because the legal climate of K2 is in jeopardy. It does not make sense to spend thousands of dollars in fees and permits when the product sold could be declared illegal on a whim.
The circumstances surrounding Monday’s initial investigation are suspect as well. After a code compliance officer “noticed a strong odor,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, emanating from building’s location, that gave so-called probable cause for firefighters to go snooping inside and find some reason to close the business.
The revealing bit came from police spokesman Sgt. Chad Mahaffey, who said no other illegal activity was taking place “as far as what our current laws are.” He went on to say, “We are working closely with city leaders and state legislators to find the right solution for the K2 challenge. We want to make sure we get it right.”
Why is K2 considered a “challenge,” and what is there to get right? How can the mutually consensual exchange of a product be of any concern for law enforcement?
One criticism is that K2 causes vomiting and hallucinations. I have to ask if they have ever heard of alcohol or cigarettes, both of which are far more dangerous — not to mention addictive — legal products. The only reported accident involving the use of K2 in the whole city came in May, when a man was detained because he was “extremely paranoid,” according to the police report.
Any talk about outlawing K2 to prevent the spread of potential gateway drugs is just a cover. Most of it is sold at smoke shops and convenience stores. If or when it is made illegal, the supply will just shift to drug dealers who have little reputation to maintain and will push their customers onto harder drugs with larger profit margins. Besides, using government force to prevent peaceful behavior you do not approve of is setting a worse example for young people.
I think the challenge the spokesman was concerned with was something altogether different. His challenge is that enough people might begin using the drug before local governments have thoroughly demonized it. Despite their claims of fighting marijuana, they desperately need the federal dollars they fetch from busting small-time marijuana users and dealers. Those artificial numbers are then used to scare tax dollars out of frightened voters to approve Fort Worth’s $50 million slush fund called a crime prevention district.
Luckily, the marketplace has already responded, making other derivative forms of synthetic marijuana. Before local bureaucrats got their grubby hands in the way, K2 was pretty much ignored. Social ostracism had prevent its rise in popularity. Now that it is under the predatory of eye of local governments, its mystique has been raised and now so will its use.