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County takes steps to ban K2

Harrison County has joined other counties, cities and towns throughout Indiana that have banned the selling, marketing or offering of the K2 incense, also known as Spice, which is a synthetic form of marijuana.
Jeff Skaggs, coordinator of the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, visited the Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday morning to request an ordinance be created to ban the substance, which is known by many names, including K2 Summit, K2 Silver Surfer, Voodoo, Fire, Genie, Zohai, Dragon’s Slice, K2 Pink and Black Magic Smoke.
The ordinance was unanimously adopted on its first reading by the three-member board. It will be put in effect as soon as it is advertised in this newspaper.
The town of Milltown was the first government entity in the immediate area to adopt an ordinance banning the selling and possessing of the herb that was initially used in research for the National Institute on Drug Abuse by Clemson University organic chemist John W. Huffman in 1995. The product has never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Skaggs said Clarksville recently signed a similar ordinance, and area counties have as well. He said the substance causes the heart rate to increase significantly, and some users have been hospitalized. He also said the substance may have been the cause of death of a Harrison County man Sunday.
Skaggs also added the chemicals used to make ‘white lighting,’ a synthetic cocaine, to the ban ordinance after researching Perry County’s ordinance.
‘We’re asking to get a ban for Harrison County,’ Skaggs said. ‘We’ll do our youth a favor and keep youth from using this substance.’
Commissioner James Goldman said the ban could act as a stop gap until the legislature votes on a state-wide ban that would go in effect July 1. Kentucky made K2 illegal in early 2010. Other states where the product is illegal are Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas. In Arkansas, an emergency order was passed last year banning the sale of synthetic cannabis.
‘It’s going to be tough for officers to enforce,’ Goldman said of the local ordinance.
Any violation of the ordinance will result in a $500 civil fine for the first offense and a $1,000 fine for the second and any subsequent violations. The county attorney also has the authority to seek an injunction to force any local business to comply with the ordinance. Excluded in the ordinance is the use of any of the substances by physicians or dentists. The ordinance has a ‘sunset provision’ that allows it to expire July 1, which is the date a state ban would take effect if it is passed, unless other action is taken.
‘What about (veterinarians)?’ Councilman Phil Smith asked. ‘You’ve got to be careful here what you’re doing.’
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes said the ordinance is just a starting point.
Legal counsel John E. Colin said the ordinance was drafted as narrowly as possible, and law enforcement will need to take a common-sense approach to the ban.
K2 is typically sold as incense at gas stations or smoke shops and is often a mixture of dried herbs sprayed with a synthetic marijuana-like substance, which acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, the same places where marijuana has its effect.
While users smoke K2 to reach a relaxing high, many times they suffer the opposite effect, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, paranoia and, the most dangerous symptom, an elevated heart rate.
Milltown Police Chief Ray Saylor said, while expecting to get a buzz legally, users don’t realize the side effects are so dangerous, even deadly. He said the county has a right and responsibility to protect the public when they don’t or won’t protect themselves.
In a related matter, Skaggs requested mini-grants for the substance abuse prevention coalition for after-prom parties. Amanda Bennett from Corydon Central High School requested $499 for the purchase of an Apple iPad. The iPad will be the major door prize to encourage students to attend the after-prom party, Skaggs said.
‘The after-prom party is a safe alternative event for students to have fun without alcohol and drugs,’ he said.
Regina Caldwell, the sponsor for Lanesville Junior-Senior High School, requested $500 for activities and games.
‘Last year, Lanesville presented a great after-prom program and is preparing another great alternative for students for 2011,’ Skaggs said.
Goldman asked why North Harrison High School doesn’t offer an after-prom alternative.
Skaggs responded that administrators there leave it up to the students.
When asked if they were interested in attending an after-prom party, many of the North students said ‘no,’ so they didn’t have a program, Skaggs said, adding that there will always be kids who won’t attend such an activity but there will also be others who always will, and a large number of them can be persuaded to attend with the right incentives.
‘I’m glad to hear you’re trying to work with them,’ Goldman said.
Skaggs also said that South Central Junior-Senior High School has not had an after-prom party the last couple of years.
The board approved the mini-grants with a 2-0 vote.