Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TOP STORY>>K2 ban in works

Leader staff writer

Although the state legislature will likely ban K2, a legal drug that mimics the effects of marijuana, when it meets next year, Cabot isn’t waiting that long.

The city council’s police and fire committee voted Monday night to send an ordinance with an emergency clause banning the substance for full council approval in July.

City Attorney Jim Taylor, who learned about the drug and the state’s plan to outlaw it during the Arkansas Municipal League convention a week ago, told the committee that if the legislature bans the drug as planned, it will be July 2011 before the ban becomes state law.

Lt. Scott Steely, filling in for Police Chief Jackie Davis, told the committee that the product is no longer available in Cabot because the distributor that also provides tobacco to local merchants is no longer selling it in central Arkansas because so many cities are either considering bans or have already banned it. However, it is still available in other cities and counties and online.

The drug, sold in tobacco stores and smoked just like marijuana, is a chemical compound similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It is sprayed on a variety of dried plant material. It is already illegal in Kansas and Kentucky and other states are considering a ban.

But the lack of state and federal control doesn’t mean cities can’t ban the sale of the drug within city limits.

Ed Barham, public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Health, said during an interview last month that his agency is encouraging the state legislature to outlaw K2.

He conceded that making a drug illegal doesn’t make it go away.

If one city bans it, users can buy it in other cities. And if the state bans it, users can buy it online the way many now do, he said.

Barham said state health officials are concerned about the drug for a number of reasons. Most of it is made in China where quality control is lacking, he said. There is no way for the consumer to know exactly what has been sprayed onto the leaves and the strength varies from batch to batch.

The health department is studying the effects as well as working on a test to detect K2 in the system.

“We’re wondering about the effects on the body,” he said. “You can’t have long-term studies until a long term has passed.”

The drug has been in the United States for about a year and in Arkansas for about six months, he said. In that time, some users have been admitted to hospital emergency rooms with seizures, rapid heart rates and nausea.

“We’re concerned about the effects on the memory, respiratory, immune and nervous systems,” he said.
In other business, the fire and police committee instructed the city attorney to modify the existing city ordinance against the discharge of firearms to allow indoor, commercial firing ranges.

Alderman Eddie Cook, chairing the committee for Lisa Brickell who was absent, said two companies have made inquiries about using the old Bancroft Cap Company building as a firing range but neither will consider locating there until the city’s ban on discharging firearms is modified.

“Any business is good business,” Cook said.

Alderman Rick Prentice asked if the revised ordinance would have sufficient safeguards for the community. Customers carrying loaded guns from their cars to the business could be disturbing, he said. The city attorney responded that the ordinance would have to be tied to the police and fire departments to ensure residents’ safety.