City Paper is not for tourists
You might want to smoke or toss what you have, fast. K2 officially became contraband today. According to a statement put out by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, synthetic marijuana products like K2 are now illegal to possess and sell. The substances mimic the euphoric effect of pot when smoked. They also don’t show up in drug test results. The DEA “exercised its emergency scheduling authority” to ban five chemicals used to make the fake pot. “This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety,” says the DEA.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be studying synthetic marijuana in order to figure out if the temporary ban should become permanent. In D.C., At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson was working on legislation that would outlaw the stuff, which can be bought at some District shops (three grams costs about $40), but it doesn’t look like that’ll be necessary. Critics of the drug have said it can cause side-effects like serious respiratory problems. The ban will last for at least a year.
Update: Thirteen minutes after opening, Capitol Hemp is already clean. The Adams Mill Road NW head shop, its green walls decorated with neon bright art work, doesn’t have to worry about the authorities bursting in. When, as the store gets ready for the day, a customer calls asking for Spice, a worker politely explains the store no longer carries it and hangs up.
“We gave it up two months ago,” says owner Alan Amsterdam. Amsterdam says the business had been closely following the DEA’s intentions to outlaw man-made pot, and that he “saw the writing on the wall” by the end of December. At that point, the store gathered up all its fake pot products and had a party at which the entire stock was burned. “We don’t sell anything illegal nor do we want to,” says Amsterdam.
But he also says that not being able to sell the products has definitely hurt some financially.”It was really popular,” says a smiling Amsterdam. After two months of not selling the product, there are still three to four customers coming in a day looking for the expensive herbs, technically sold as incense. Amsterdam says that his business model works fine without the product, though.
Amsterdam also tells that the controversy may not be over. He’s been getting calls from salespeople who purport to have a way around the new restrictions. The reps say they’ve developed K2-like products that don’t use the chemicals JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497 or cannabicyclohexanol, the synthetic marijuana compounds that are now illegal. Currently, Amsterdam doesn’t have designs on buying.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery