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Column: K2 ban a buzzkill

Jordan Stein

March 9, 2010

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

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Article comments

March 9, 2010 at 4:14 p.m.

Brandon: K2 is a type of potpourri! They're gonna ban it to stop the few who smoke it from doing so, while rejecting the rest who use it for regular purposes?? Now that's just insane. These politicians are so unscrupulous. I mean, if we banned every little thing someone could get high off, our economy and perhaps our entire society would shut down!!

March 9, 2010 at 5:29 p.m.

Paul: I totally agree with the premise of your column, but I find it troubling that people would consume that hasn't been researched. Sure it hasn't been proven dangerous, but it's not been proven safe either. Maybe if people weren't stupid enough to consume things they know nothing about we wouldn't need these laws.

March 9, 2010 at 6:03 p.m.

Bob: We all see how well human nature has kept people from drinking and driving. As far as Tobacco; it does not put you in an altered state which creates a dangerous situation for others. Your pursuit of happiness is only good until it impedes upon anothers safety and happiness. But you are right that people will continue to find the next thing that crops up, because of their need for self satisfaction with no consideration for others. It is not an economic issue as much as it is a social issue for those who feel a need to self medicate. Using K2, if it works the same as marijuana which alters your reality; should be illegal. The individuals whom are using it are (mis-using)for what it was intended. That mis-use should be the first clue that something is wrong with it.

March 9, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.

Ryan: Really? We don't have anything else to worry about? I did not realize this is why they got elected. How about doing something that actually matters for a change.

March 9, 2010 at 8:59 p.m.

Zach: BOB SAID "Using K2, if it works the same as marijuana which alters your reality; should be illegal." Who are you to tell people what to do? If I want to alter my reality in the privacy of my own home i will. Who the heck are you to tell me how to live my life. I hate you.

March 11, 2010 at 11:07 a.m.

Pandora: The problem with these bans is that prohibit a legitimate product because a few chose to abuse it. A better option might be to restrict the sales to adults.

March 11, 2010 at 2:41 p.m.

Rick: Maybe Kurt Shaefer should stop being such a knee-jerk, ignorant Republican and try it before he bans it. If he did, he would find a short and weak buzz that doesn't even compare to being high. Ban alcohol if you want to ban something dangerous. If I want to smoke a weak alternative to weed, I should be able to. If I want to smoke weed, I should be able to. We didn't elect you to waste our time and taxpayer dollars on this bullshit. Let us live our lives and make our own decisions. Stop passing bills that take away freedom. Fuck off!

March 20, 2010 at 10:47 a.m.

Moe: I love how they are scurrying as fast as they can to get this banned....I wish they would try this hard in fixing things that really matter...such as our states infrastructure, take steps that they can to raise employment..these people make me sick, even though I think voting these days is a fraud...I will vote this November, against any incumbents...its time for fresh blood..we voted these people in to serve us and all they do is clamp down on shit...fuck them

March 23, 2010 at 4:03 p.m.

Meme: "Even if this substance is dangerous (which is something I'm not ready to commit to believing because of lack of research)" Smoking perfume is bad, M'kay? What part of "not for consumption" is confusing for you?

April 13, 2010 at 4:05 p.m.

Mel: Anyone who thinks that anything is OK to get high on is purely uneducated.This is on the streets and yes so is pot but our kids are more likely to try something that is legal.Its been researched enough and it does not always have the same high effect that pot does. It has a different effect on everyone.In some it a very mild effect or none at all and others a very hallucinated high.Some kid told my son it was safe just try it.He did,he almost died.Was in ICU and on a ventilator.And only a small dose was inhaled. Im in the nursing field and sure he made the choice to smoke it but hey why not its legal so it has to be ok. Its not and it can kill someone who smokes it that has a bad reaction.

April 16, 2010 at 5:44 a.m.

Joe: Mel just because one person, or a few people had a bad reaction shouldn't ruin it for everyone else. And you don't know how much your son did, lol @ that. "yeah mom I just did a TINY bit" Blame everyone else and cry to the gov. to ban something because your son made a stupid choice. That's the real showing of un-education here!

May 4, 2010 at 4:39 a.m.

Donald Wirth: This is bullshit K2 is awsome I smoke it and im just fine in fact all my friends do just for the simple fact that its legal. Its my choice to posion myself and as far as Driving while under the effects of k2 it should be the SAME charge as DUI because thats excatly what u r doin....To all the people that wanna take this FREEDOM away from the people like me need to FUCK OFF!! Live your own life...This is America land of the Free and home of the brave LET FREEDOM RING its our choice.. I have 2 jobs and i smoke everyday its perfectly fine because its legal .......I have NEVER ever wanted to hurt anyone while under the influence of K2 at most i wanted to meet people and introduce a PEACEFUL way of life...PEOPLE we NEED to wake up and take action NOW our voices are NOT being heard..before long we will have no freedoms left..K2 does NOT need to be made illegal because....IT IS SIMPLY A PERSONAL CHOICE TO TAKE PART IN ANY ACTIVITIES INVOLVING K2 OR ANY LEGAL HERB FOR THAT MATTER.....if u agree copy and paste this anywhere and everywhere you can lets get the voice of america heard again....stand up for freedom before its to late!!!

June 29, 2010 at 12:03 p.m.

AC: WTF people... don't smoke potpourri, smoke the real deal!! Just be smart about it and don't do something stupid that will get you caught... If more people were less retarded, and new how to be RESPONSIBLE with their marijuana use, we wouldn't have to worry about people smoking this K2 stuff...

Sept. 13, 2010 at 9:20 p.m.

SmarterThanaBrick: Jordan Stein, With all do respect. You might do a little research before you let your brains fall our of your head. You might start here: I suppose you are against locking up Spray Paint in the stores? Locking Firearms? A legal Drinking Age? These rules, laws and bills are to protect the kids who have parents who either cannot teach their kids or just don't care. It is not just about ruining their fun, but maybe one of these people stoned out of their mind just may kill one of your family members. At which time, you will be singing a different tune, perhaps.

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