Indiana to consider banning "K2" drug


Richard Essex/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - It's legal, but potentially deadly. States like Illinois are already banning the drug K2, also known as Spice, and Indiana is expected to consider legislation.

People continue to smoke the drug to get high. But what's really in it? Eyewitness News recently brought the drug to a scientist who tells us just what's in it and why people should be concerned about its effects.

Joe Kennedy is a scientist for Prosolia, Inc. He is also one of the few people in the state of Indiana who has experimented with the active ingredient of Pep Spice, K2, White Dragon and other legal, over-the-counter marijuana-type products. Kennedy has never smoked it, nor has he seen anyone inhale it "other than your news story where the people were smoking it and acting goofy and whatever."

Kennedy could become a regular user's nightmare.

"I guess that is the appealing thing from the compounds and these blends is that hey we can get high just like marijuana except it is undetected so no one is going to know," he said.

Kennedy can detect it. The active and currently legal ingredient is called JWH-018, but it takes some effort. He soaks the leaves in a bottle of acetone, places a drop of the fluid from the bottle onto a slide and then, using an ether solution, the slide is ready. Under the glare of UV light, the compound is visible.

The synthetic marijuana is said to be ten times stronger than real pot. That's led many states to ban the substance - including Illinois. The governor signed a measure just this week to ban the substance.

Dozens of people have been hospitalized after smoking it and the Marion County Coroner is investigating at least one possible death connected to K2.

"If people think that this is a safe alternative to marijuana, I think they're mistaken. To date the only things we're seeing from this medically are problems," said Dr. Dan Rusyniak, Wishard Hospital Medical Toxicology.

After our story in May, a mother from Hamilton County sent us a sample of what her 16-year-old son had been buying and smoking. It's legal to buy if you are 18 or over. It is called K2 Summit. The active ingredient is JWH-018, which several states have banned, so rogue scientists have come up with similar product, JWH-073.

"You can buy it. The synthesis has been published and it is not that hard to make," Kennedy said. "This K2 Summit does have both 073 and 018 it does have both of them in there."

The sample sent to Eyewitness News had two compounds that have not been tested on people, and are both OK by law to buy in Indiana.

"They have not been studied in people so we don't know, for instance, what the active metabolites are that would be excreted in urine," said Kennedy.

It's impossible to detect with a regular drug test.

One current member of the Indiana General Assembly is proposing legislation to ban JWH-018. Indiana's lawmakers are expected to consider similar legislation early next year.