Daily RFT Product Testing Laboratory: K2 Synthetic Marijuana

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"Not for consumption" = good advice
"Not for consumption" = good advice
When we walked into the head shop near the Riverfront Times in the Delmar Loop yesterday, a customer and the bearded guy behind the counter were hunched over reading the Post-Dispatch's story on K2, the "synthetic marijuana" that a handful of Missouri lawmakers are attempting to outlaw.

The shopkeeper wouldn't comment (and asked that we not include the name of his store in our writings), but the customer, Jason Nance, had strong feelings about the proposed law against the faux-weed.

"It's just another way to keep people locked up and currency flowing through the system," Nance said. "And besides, that stuff's like something you'd find in your mom's cupboard."

Had he ever tried it?

"No," he chuckled. "Why would you?"

It was a legitimate question, and one we continued to ask ourselves before, during, and after our experience smoking a joint of K2. Ultimately, though, we sacrificed our lungs and precious few brain cells in order to find out just how potent this imitation pot really is.

Those who support banning the stuff -- which contains no THC, doesn't show up on drug tests, and works by mimicking the effects of marijuana on the brain's cannabinoid receptors -- say it's just as strong as actual cannabis. Skeptics maintain that it's mildly effective but nowhere near a bona fide marijuana high.

Determining the drug's true efficacy is a legitimate goal. If it's all a sham then lawmakers should be doing better things with their time. And, more importantly, we don't want our dear readers forking over their hard-earned dollars for some barely legal knock-off chronic unless it actually gets them blazed.

With that in mind, we paid $34 for one three-gram package of the "Summit" variety of K2, and a packet of Zig-Zag rolling papers. The Summit, the store manager said, was the stronger of the two types of K2 his store carried. The other was called "Pink" and he described this as "sweeter smelling" and less expensive.

Once we got the package back to the office it was time for a close inspection.

Packaging: Silver baggy, cheap-looking purple label with a warning that reads "Not for consumption." That's it -- no ingredients and no information on where the product was processed or manufactured.

Daily RFT Product Testing Laboratory: K2 Synthetic Marijuana
K2 puts the pot in potpourri
Appearance: Honestly, it looks like potpourri. Contents seem to include sawdust, some small purple leaves (getting our hopes up), a few other pastel-colored flakes and thin, dark brown seeds, each about the size of a grain of rice. If anyone ever tried to pass this off as real marijuana they'd either be laughed out of the room or shot. Probably the latter.

Smell: Actual remarks from co-workers: "I'm detecting mustard and tarragon"..."There's some oregano in there, and it's a little peppery too"..."stale lavender"..."like an antique shop where they sell doilies"...and from an editor who was wistfully recalling the "righteous shit" of the '60's, "That doesn't smell like dope!"

Rollability: Some of the larger flakes needed to be crushed up but, for the most part, it easily rolls into the paper. A reporter in the cubicle next door remarked that the result would definitely be classified as "a fatty."

Smoke quality: Dubious doobie in hand, a trio of writers (who shall remain nameless) with varying degrees of pot-smoking experience headed downstairs to the street. It felt a little conspicuous at first -- though in the Loop, three dudes passing a funky-smelling cone-shaped cigarette rarely turns heads -- but the nerves quickly subsided. It smelled nothing like marijuana smoke. In fact, it was more like a clove. It was very dry and very harsh. There's an awful after-taste, like hand-rolled unfiltered cigarette with the cheapest tobacco.

High: Guinea Pig #1: "For about ten minutes I felt kind of euphoric. It was better than I usually feel, there was definitely something there. No paranoia or any of the other side effects I remember."

Guinea Pig #2: "I'm a little light-headed. But I feel like we're a group of high school kids sitting around and saying, 'Are you high? I'm totally high.' But none of them are actually high. It has a little something to it though."

Guinea Pig #3: "I'm a non-smoker but it's like the nicotine buzz when I sneak an occasional cigarette. Not much of a high though, maybe equivalent to one toke of the real stuff, but it wore off very quickly."

Final Thoughts: Only an extremely desperate teenager would resort to smoking this stuff to get high. For a few dollars more, you can buy a larger quantity of the real thing. Still, it's very shady that it has no ingredients or any information at all on the package.

That alone seems like something the FDA should be concerned about (and, judging from yesterday's raid of a K2-selling head shop in Kansas, they already are.) If it is eventually outlawed, it will be to protect people from their own stupidity instead of keeping them from getting stoned.

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