Sen. Kurt Schaefer's crusade against K2 continues as a bill he's sponsoring to ban the drug is now going before the state Senate.
The Columbia Republican wants to classify the product K2 and other "fake drugs," such as substances found in tree barks and toad venom, as illegal substances.
I doubt I could find anyone younger than 25 who hasn't heard of K2, but for anybody in the dark out there, K2 is an "herbal incense" that contains a synthetic cannabinoid. Although the product is marked "not for consumption," when smoked, K2 mimics the effects of marijuana. It does not contain the active ingredient of marijuana, THC.
K2 seems to be a fairly new product, at least to me. It is apparently very similar to a product called Spice that has been banned in some parts of Europe.
Schaefer would like to make sure K2 is treated the same as marijuana. As a result, anyone found with more than 35 grams of K2 would be guilty of a Class C Felony.
I think this ban is ridiculous but not very surprising. The problem with drug legislation is governing bodies, such as the Missouri General Assembly, refuse to learn from lessons of the past. That lesson: Prohibition does not work.
I believe K2 exists solely because marijuana is illegal. Even if this substance is dangerous (which is something I'm not ready to commit to believing because of lack of research), people will continue to consume it. If or when Missouri or other states ban K2, another new synthetic compound or natural alternative to marijuana will surface. Because the repercussions of a drug conviction are so severe, people will cling to any legal method of getting high that crops up.
This is not to say marijuana's illegality keeps people from using it. I would bet good money any student on campus could quickly name at least five people they know who have not only tried marijuana but use it regularly.
Marijuana seems to be a special case in the entire drug war conversation. It's not similar to harder drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, in any way. I wholly believe it should be legal, regulated and taxed. I can't find any credible evidence it is any more harmful or dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. Plus, imagine what revenue could be brought into our state if pot was readily available at the gas stations and supermarkets, right next to the cigarettes and booze.
The uproar over K2 is unwarranted. Incarcerating even more young nonviolent offenders is a really stupid, unnecessary move. But I have no doubt such a ban will come to pass, given how quickly and easily this bill has moved through the house and senate committees.
Until our lawmakers become a little more realistic about human behavior, stupid laws such as this will continue to exist. Instead of banning relatively harmless substances, such as marijuana and K2, why don't we ban reckless behavior and encourage safe consumption? The laws that govern alcohol and tobacco, such as age limits and driving restrictions, should be perfectly sufficient in regulating marijuana and K2.
I would ask that our state senators dispatch of this bill quickly and move on to other issues that are actually of urgent importance for Missouri. Let's worry a little less about college stoners and a little more about education, employment and our budget.
Jordan Stein is a senior political science major and a campaign volunteer for Columbia mayoral candidate Sid Sullivan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org