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A marijuana substitute known as K2 is on sale legally in the United States.

On January 10, 2012, the Daily Mail reported that a promising high school football player drowned after taking this synthetic drug:

Logan Matthew Kushner had bought K2 with a friend legally from a neighbourhood gas station before smoking the synthetic product and jumping into a park creek early on Sunday morning in Clearwater, Florida.

According to reports, Kushner’s friend whom police did not name, persuaded the 19-year-old to get out of the water and told him they needed to leave.

But when Kushner opted to stay, the friend left him behind at the park.

The Palm Harbor University High School student, who also played football for the school’s team, The Hurricanes, did not answer calls to his phone after being left alone.

It would be unfair to speculate on why his friend left him at such a crucial time, but several scenarios come to mind.  The drug might have provoked any number of unexpected reactions from both young men.

Some, especially those who support the legalisation of dope, would say that this is a scaremongering item, however, anyone who has smoked natural dope and the modern (and cheaper) variant — skunk — will tell you there is a big difference between the two.  Skunk is not your grandparents’ favourite from the 1960s.  Nor is K2.

The Mail shows a photo of a K2 packet, which looks much like many factory-made products. In fact, it is branded as incense and, frankly, does not look like dope. However:

K2 and similar substances are known to be synthetic cannabinoids significantly more powerful than marijuana, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Normally sold by the gram in brightly-coloured packaging, the substances are known to induce dizziness and hallucinations.

Users can also experience paranoia, anxiety and agitation, as well as physical side-effects such as high blood pressure and heart rate, panic attacks and seizures.

… synthetic marijuana – produced by spraying dried plant material with a chemical compound – has only been around for the last few years …

symptoms can last for days …

One patient told a doctor at the Carolinas Poison Center it was ‘like being on cocaine, but ten times worse’.

Astute American readers may well point out that the DEA has banned many of these substances. Whilst that is true:

various manufacturers began advertising other fake marijuana products, many of which are sold online.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, a gas station near Clearwater was selling a substance called Scooby Snax Potpourri on Sunday.

Despite its name, the product warned it was not meant for human consumption.

The company’s website asserted that the product does not contain any of the compounds banned under synthetic cannabinoids legislation.

An Australian reader wrote in to say (edited for punctuation):

This stuff is terrible. The synthetic cannabinoids are sprayed on it in large quantities, meaning you never know how much has been sprayed into the leaf in your packet. I smoked this stuff for 6 months and out of nowhere had a panic attack because my heart rate had tripled and I couldn’t count or remember my name. It is horrible stuff. You NEVER know what you’re gonna get …

My sympathies to the Kushner family and my hopes that filling stations and smaller shops will stop selling these products.

It’s bad enough that the effects can be prolonged. As this article shows, results for users can be unexpected, dramatic and fatal.

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