TAMPA - Some consider it a dangerous drug but it's perfectly legal to buy here in the Bay Area. Called K2 or spice, this fake weed can get you high but can it also get you arrested?
It looks like marijuana, smokes like marijuana, gets you high like marijuana and it's perfectly legal. A Tampa man who is now a recovering addict says, “I could literally smoke this in front of a cop and they might have something to say about it but there is nothing they can technically do about it."
More and more people are getting stoned on an emerging drug called fake weed- a concoction also known as Spice, Genie and more commonly: K2.
Where'd K2 come from? A lab, where a scientist created a synthetic form of THC - the active ingredient in marijuana- for research. So how did his chemical compound get out of the lab, onto the street and eventually sprayed onto potpourri - no body knows but we do know the fake weed has arrived here.
We took an undercover camera into smoke shops in the Tampa Bay area. At every location they knew about K2. It's sold to use as incense, incense that in one case took a password "coconuts" to buy.
Our recovering addict, who asked us not to identify him, tells us, “It's sold in little bags. It's 20-30 dollars a gram for it.”
Recovering at Turning Point in Tampa, our addict says the stuff may be fake, but the effect is very real. “Typically munchies, light headedness, mild hallucinations, and red eyes."
Because the chemical is not THC, he says drug tests can't pick it up.
“The products appear to be more potent. There is no quality control.” Cynthia Lewis Younger, with Poison Control, says young people think they're being slick - but they have no idea of the potential side effects. “There is nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and even seizures have been reported."
It’s a risk many are willing to take. “I was actually pulled over by a cop for having red eyes. She asked if I’d been using and I said, ‘No I haven't been smoking anything illegal. I just smoked some spice. I'm going to guess the police know about this because she took it well. I mean typically when I was using illegal substances I couldn't drive around in a car with a wooden pipe and a bag of marijuana, but with this stuff I can drive around with a 5ft hookah and a big bag."
We asked Laura McElroy, the spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department, about a recovering addict basically mocking police. “I’d say he got a lucky break that time. If he'd been pulled over by a Tampa Police officer he'd have ended up behind bars. If you're driving impaired, whether it’s an illegal substance or something like K2, you're impaired and you can go to jail.”
But can you be prosecuted? That, according to a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office is a grey area. They have yet to see a DUI case involving K2 test the judicial system locally.
State Representative Darryl Rouson says there are so many legal products people can get high off of you can't ban them all but he would support “creating legislation that first creates a deterrent, second creates more awareness and thirdly makes it illegal for those to push it or sell it."
Rouson may not have to wait long to take a side on K2. A Florida chapter of the United Way is looking closely at the synthetic marijuana. Their commission on substance abuse is organizing a game plan that might include pushing for legislation to make this fake weed illegal.
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