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September 27, 2021


Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Synthetic Cannabis

I was in an Anchorage Assembly meeting a few weeks ago, and the question came before the body – Should synthetic cannabinoids be illegal? I had never heard of “synthetic cannabinoids” and thought that this sounded like some kind of manufactured drug that had the same effect as marijuana.

After a few questions, I found out that this stuff which looked a lot like cannabis was being marketed as “incense” under the name “Spice,” “K2” and others, and being sold over the counter in Anchorage. The Assembly voted to illegalize the substance and I thought at the time that I should find out more about it. Little did I know that I’d find out more than I ever wanted to know (but should) at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Juneau.

I stopped in to the committee to hear the discussion of a piece of hate crime legislation that had been in the news. More on that later. But the first bill to be discussed was SB17 which asked the same question – Should these substances be illegal. This brought up a whole range of questions about whether the manufacture, the distribution, the sale, the use of the substances, or all of the above should be illegal, and what should the penalties be?

Below are my notes on the meeting, beginning with me sitting around with not much to do before everything started. So you can join me as I attend my first Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in our state’s gorgeous and awesome capital.

(The scene opens with me sitting in the back row, doing the equivalent of writing you notes in class on my laptop)

Sitting in the Belz Committee room, waiting for the hearing on the Hate Crimes bill.

Couple sitting next to me. Man asks woman if she knows they are “under surveillance.” She says yes, and he confirms that she’s aware of the exact location of the surveillance camera.

Today is overcast, and a little warmer after two days of frigid cold and blue skies. There’s a camera set up to record the proceedings for Gavel to Gavel. The room is painful pale sunny yellow, and reminds me of my mother’s kitchen.

Sound check in progress.

Senator Hollis French is in the house! He’s the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I’m not used to seeing him in a suit. He looks very dashing.

The couple has come hoping to testify about something here… presumably either the Hate Crimes bill, or the one on synthetic cannabinoids, but are told that comment period is past and they’ll get another opportunity when the bill goes to the Finance Committee.

A few more people have filtered in with coffee cups, folders, clipboards.

I am struck be the awesome artwork and items of historical interest in the capitol. There was a great display case of minerals on the second floor that I must go back and check out.

SB 17, 11, 39 will be addressed in that order.

Senator French is left handed. Two women with laptops sit at a side table clicking away updating something official looking.

There’s a flurry of activity as three young looking people, two men in shirts and ties, and one woman wearing a traditional kuspuk hand out pads, pens and highlighters to the front table.

Bill Wielechowski and Christy Harvey are here. Senator Paskvan has also taken a seat at the head table. A bunch of good people in the room so far.

We are gaveled in by Senator French.

Sponsor’s staff called forward a Representative from Senator Kevin Meyer’s office from district O. He is the sponsor, but is not here and regrets it. The bill would classify synthetic cannabinoids as a controlled substance. Several letters of support, including ones from the Municipality of Anchorage, The Alaska Mental Health Board, police and others.

The bill would change these drugs from Schedule 2A to Schedule 3A. A first offense for a Schedule 2A controlled substance including possession is a class C felony. If they were a Schedule 3a, they would be a class A misdemeanor with a maximum 1 year imprisonment and a hefty fine.

Senator John Coghill is now here – the lone Republican.

Coghillasks about what the effective date would be after the bill is signed, when these substances which are marketed as “incense” under the brand names “K2” and “Spice”would have to be taken off the shelf of the convenience stores, tobacco stores and head shops where it is now sold over the counter.

Anne Carpinettifrom the Criminal Division of the Department of Law is on the phone. She says that the day the governor signs the bill it becomes effective immediately. Senator Coghill doesn’t think it’s good public policy to do that because people won’t be prepared.

Jennifer Messick, a traffic safety resource prosecutor has testimony she wants to give. Two main areas. First consideration for “scheduling” (classifying what kind of drug category it should be). She is all for changing the classification of “Spice,” “K2” and related drugs.

Apparently synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are considered “cyclic drugs” which means that they affect users differently and unpredictably, and may affect the same user in a different way at different times. One user may become violent, another may hallucinate and become delusional, another may become unconscious. Each use is unpredictable. The effects of SCs are similar to PCP and LSD than the marijuana of which they purport to be the synthetic version.

She tells a story about the APD being called by two roommates, because their other roommate had stopped breathing. His heart had stopped when the ambulance arrived, but they were able to resuscitate him. None of them had been doing any other drugs. They all smoked Spice together, and from the same package. They were not affected adversely, but the roommate was. They got him to the hospital where he took a turn for the worse, and his parents had just made the difficult decision to remove him from life support.

Another APD officer got a call from someone because a man was yelling into his cellphone and acting irrational and highly impaired. Two officers arrived at the scene and asked if he was OK. He instantly grabbed for one of the officer’s guns and tried to remove it from the holster. He showed a weird kind of almost super human strength that people sometimes see with PCP use. Eventually they had to break a night stick over his head. He kept going for the gun, and they had to tase him twice. Six officers were eventually needed to subdue him and they had to render him unconscious.

Marijuana, on the other hand leads to being lazy, hungry, or euphoric, but does not produce the effects you see with these drugs, so SCs should, in her estimation be reclassified to more closely represent what they are, not what people assume they are.

Alaskan reports from police and schools are consistent with reports from the rest of the country.

(Call dropped off. Short at ease.)

As we pause, and I look at the head table with Coghill, Wielechowski, French, and Paskvan that song from Sesame Street starts going through my mind. “One of these things is not like the others…” Three of these people would make an awesome governor. *Hint – not Coghill.

Paskvan wants to know if there are any peer reviewed studies on the effects of SCs on people.

Messick – There aren’t, and here’s why. In the 1990s there was an effort to create a synthetic cannabinoid with all medical benefits of marijuana, but none of the drawbacks. They tested these new synthetic drugs on rats and pigeons. The results were so heinous on the poor creatures that they immediately decided they were definitely not suitable for human beings or anything else, so they were never even tested on people. These SC “recipes” were ashcanned. The compounds as they exist now, and as they are being sold were never intended for human consumption and have no medical use. But the results of how to make them were available through the scientific writeups, and were taken out of the trash, as it were, and marketed as “incense” but designed only to get you high. It will never be studied because it was already rejected.

Paskvan asked what is your source for this?

Messick -There were articles published. John Hoffman, the scientist who came up with this, and he is quoted in articles saying if you use these substances “you are playing Russian roulette.” He has expressed his disgust at how they are being used.

The Municipality of Anchorage only became aware of these compounds in 2010. Apparently, they’d seen a number of DUIs with severe symptoms, who were obviously impaired but there were no signs of drugs or alcohol. Then they started realizing it was Spice. So they’ve been seeing it since April 2010, but 18 months before that they saw cases of it but didn’t know what they were.

Paskvan says she didn’t answer the question. He wants to know specifically what the source documents are, showing where these cannabinoids came from and that they are not useful for human consumption. She will get them and pass them on.

French notes that the Muni took action early this year. He heard testimony that the Assembly decided to make possession equivalent to a traffic ticket. He wants to know if Spice and K2 are still available in Anchorage commercially.

Messick – Yes they are available. You can get it at the Black Market (a store in Anchorage), and at tobacco shops. It used to be marketed in convenience stores. The Muni was quick to enact that legislation. It is now a Civil citation or a misdemeanor. The Muni doesn’t have authority to make it a felony. They were quick to act because high school students have been hospitalized with out of control blood pressure, delusions, seeing ghosts and dead people. AFD has responded to calls where teens are unconscious, assaulting others, have breathing problems, a sense of impending doom, being combative, and with obvious altered levels of consciousness.

She says the people who came out with this and started marketing it were really geniuses because they could have easily put it on a sugar cube or paper, but nobody wants to be seen as the equivalent of an acid user. So they sprayed the SCs on green plant material that is dried, so it looks like marijuana. It was supposedly created to have medicinal value, and they can call it synthetic marijuana. The government is supposed to tell you what is dangerous, and it isn’t criminalized so we are sending a message that it’s no big deal. They call it herbal blends, and all natural. It looks like marijuana and seems homeopathic and harmless. It appeals to a segment of the population that may not normally experiment with drugs.

She said if the Muni had had the authority to make it a felony they would have.

Coghill leaves the room. (Pee before you come!)

They are still selling it in stores in Anchorage. The people who make these SC products anticipate it becoming illegal. They have other materials that are slightly different in their chemical composition, but analogous to that effect that they can start marketing if the current ones are illegalized.

French – Has the APD arrested clerks?

Mesick -They have not been arrested because we don’t have the capability to have it tested yet. We know that they are using analog compounds. They tell you online that this is what they’re doing.

Bill Wielechowski – Is Anchorage seeing problems with other drugs like meth, cocaine, or heroin?

Messick – Yes.

Bill Wielechowski – They are all illegal. Why do you think if we outlaw synthetic cannabanoids that they will go away?

Messick – Legialsiton is a framework for future action. Otherwise we are helpless. Illegalizing it sends a clear message that this stuff is dangerous. When it goes in the same category as pcp, lsd, etc. because they are similar and all synthetic, it’s like telling people it’s bad . There is a segment of the population that might use it now, that will not use it then.

Bill Wielechowski – How many people are in jail right now for drug related offenses? How many people have you found to have been using synthetic cannabinoids?

Messick- There are at least hundreds of incidents reported from the APD, the fire department and school officials that only get notified when something bad happens – when people hallucinate, become delusional, aggressive, combative, or have out of control blood pressure. So usage itself is much greater. These are only the bad experiences that get reported. The most common age group of users is 14-27 years of age.

Bill Wielechowski – Where does this lead? It’s mpossible to test for someone using it. So, if the police pull someone over and they find no evidence, can they gain a search warrant for their house?

Messick -Officers wouldn’t even attempt to get a warrant for a house, but if the driver is impaired and obviously unable to operate a car, they could get a search warrant for blood. There is one lab in the US that can detect it in the blood. We can utilize that lab at a cost of $200 a test. Other labs can detect it in the urine. It must be done in a timely way, within 8 hours for blood, and 3 hours for urine. It seems to be everywhere all at once, and is a problem in all 50 states.

Paskvan – Wouldn’t it be an important starting point to convey message to 14-27 that it’s illegal to manufacture, sell and distribute? Why not start at the top of the pyramid instead of the bottom.

Messick- The most effective is the shotgun approach, rather than a slug. Kids can get it off the internet. So if we just banned manufacture and sale in Alaska, they will still haveaccess. If possession is also illegal it casts a wider net and would be more effective.

French – The concern is also for the next generation. How can we best craft a piece of legislation that can keep us from having to do this every year? I’d like to hear from a chemist who can tell me what kind of wording is best. I hate to see the big fish go free and some dumb kid from Anchorage with a pocket full of this stuff go to jail.

Messick -The compounds in their pure form are a white powder that’s dissolved in acetone and then sprayed on plant material. You can make this stuff at home.

And they do have analog compounds ready to go. We do need broader language to encompass this. There are still remaining failed recipes in the trash can. They can just keep doing this. We must be careful how wording is used.

Bill Wielechowski – There are hundreds of ways these cannabinoids can be tweaked. If we pass this bill, they’ll be hard at work creating more of these compounds. If we were to look in our jails, we’ll find lots of people there for minor drug offenses, and many become hardened criminals while they’re there. It also costs us all a lot of money.

French – I think we’ll hold this bill over. We need to establish how broadly we can use language to cover future problems without running afoul of the constitution.

Jerry (missed his name, but will get it) testifies.
It’s possible right now. 10 or 11 substances are what other states have made illegal. This covers the normal way people make analogs.

Theoretially, an analog is a different substance but it works the same and is similar in molecular structure. The Feds are in the process of listing 5 of these substances as illegal. They listed them in November/December. There was a lawsuit, and they’ve started over again.

Orin Dim, the Anchorage public safety crime lab forensic lab manager testifies now.

French – if we pass the bill and make distribution a felony and possession a misdemeanor and they bust a head shop, are you able to test it to make sure that the substance is illegal?

Dimm – We don’t have the ability now, but we have the instrumentation and expertise, and would rapidly be able to provide that service.

French – APD has not brought cases?

Dimm – We explained we were not capable, but if it became a state law we’d be prepared to do that.

Paskvan – What is the expense of equipment and staff?

Dimm – Last quote was $10,500 for chemicals to make identification. Fiscal note attached to the bill. And we’d need one additional body.

Bill Wielechowski – So, there is a Muni law in place, and federal law that could be in place.

Dimm – There is a federal law for one and 5 more coming in the next few months.

Bill Wielechowski – Can a 17-year old kid be prosecuted?

Dimm – At least under state and fed law. Theoretically you could issue a citation.

Bill Wielechowski – We’ve got a huge prison, and will need another one in 10 years. If we keep passing laws like this, we’ll need more.

Dimm – This is like in the 80s with Ecstasy. Chemists are always creating new drugs. A law was passed that used the wording “similar to this” when trying to apply to similar drugs, and it didn’t work. If you are going to take someone’s liberty away they need to know the law and what that chemical is. When you’re stuck in this position when designer drugs are created all the time, you’ve just got to add them. Some were made illegal and went away, the ones that are easy to make in your basement continue on.

If we make it illegal some legitimate resellers will stop selling it, and it will on some level go away.

Coghill– This bill sends a message to those selling and using. But the immediate effectivedate got my attention. Do we think the legislative hearing was enough notice? If the governor signs it on April 1, is that enough notice? It’s easier to prosecute sellers than buyers.

With this stuff you don’t necessarily know it’s spice unless you see the packet. There will always be some issues with the prosecution of that end user.

French asks if there is anyone present who would like to testify.

Zachary Pease a 20-something Juneauite testifies – This is the most volatile disgusting drug I’ve seen in Juneau in a long time. I got tricked into smoking it and had a horrible time. I ended up with an infection in my lungs and throat and had to be on antibiotics. As a young person, I think this needs to be off the streets.

The committee thanks Mr. Pease for his testimony.

Bill Wielechowski wants the Dept of Law to state how many people in AK are in jail for drug offenses, and what it costs to prosecute those people.

French – Fair question. He notes the time, and says for right now, we’ll set the bill aside.


The hearing raises some interesting questions. Does it make sense to prosecute users, especially if they are just young gullible kids who think what they’re doing is harmless? Do we want to sentence users of this product to jail time? Would that help society, or simply hurt society more in the long run? If manufacture is illegal in Alaska, does it matter when the product can be bought easily online? Same with distribution. How effective can any law be if the Anchorage crime lab cannot test for the substance? Where would they get the funding to do so? *Hint – Don’t ask Dan Sullivan. And how can we help the victims of this drug – both users, and others who are endangered by its unpredictable effects?

This will be a fascinating issue to watch go through the legislature and the courts. And it’s not just a problem in Anchorage – it’s a problem everywhere.

One thing is certain, potential users (mostly young people) and parents need to become aware of the effects of this seemingly harmless drug – a true wolf in sheep’s clothing.



58 Responses to “Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Synthetic Cannabis”
  1. DuckDriver says:

    We are going through the same thing in the Utah legislature at the moment. We are spending
    Billions of dollars on the ‘War on Drugs’ and are no closer to stopping them from entering our
    country. In the mean time we send thousands and thousands of young people to jail, costing
    us taxpayers even more money. My take on this brings to mind a quote from Robert A. Heinlein:

    “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them: if I find them
    too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for every-
    thing I do.”


  2. justafarmer says:

    wow! flashback to the 60s and Frank Herbert’s “Dune” where “spice” was a hugely sought-after and highly addictive drug.

    • Zyxomma says:

      Same flashback. I read all the Dune books, and immediately thought of the Spice, which was mind-expanding and essential to “folding space,” which enabled travel throughout the universe. The Emperor Leto stole it all for himself (he was the Emperor Worm, in case you’ve forgotten your Dune lore). Spice smelled like cinnamon. Yum.

    • slipstream says:

      Okay, just put away the books, and nobody will get hurt.

  3. beth says:

    [A slight sideways zag…]

    Years ago, we (both young DSs and I) were in the car on our way to the mall. We were talking about this and that, as you do, and our conversation evolved (some might say, devolved, as it is wont to do) from one about a fellow 5th-grade student in DH1s class who cheated on a test, to things one simply does *not* do.

    We, in turn, tossed out “things one does not do” examples. When it was my ‘turn’, I said: “Drink and drive.” At which point DS2 let out a barely-stifled guffaw and said: “But, Mommy, you drink and drive A.L.L the time!”

    Umm, excuse me: Say what?

    DH2 then pointed to the ever-present can of Pepsi I always had sitting on the driver’s seat with me when driving…and from which I regularly took swigs. If I was driving, I had a Pepsi with me. Always!

    Come to find out, no one had explained the distinction to DH2 between “drinking” v. “drinking”…he was under the impression that the slogan meant: Do not drink *anything* and drive”; ergo, his mother was a hypocrite of the highest order. (Hey, it wasn’t his ‘fault’ he didn’t know what everyone assumed he knew; that the solgan pertained only to alcohol-containing beverages; nor was he to be ‘faulted’ for not asking if there was a distinction — how could he know to ask something he didn’t know to ask?)

    Immediately, I, yes, explained to him the difference between driving and drinking beverages *not* containing alcohol, and driving and consuming beverages containing alcohol. I also explained to him the difference between taking drugs prescribed by a physician for a medical reason(s) and drugs taken ‘recreationally’. I had always assumed he knew the distinctions; in that assumption, I’d made a mucho grande mistake. I wonder how many others also make it? beth.

  4. Marnie says:

    It never hurts to assign legal responsibility. If a store owner can be held liable for injuries caused by a product they sell that is known to cause harm, it could make obtaining the products more difficult.

    That of course leaves the Black market.

    I don’t think it is possible for there to be too many reminders, especially if aimed at the young, that illegal drugs are addictive and they ruin your life, they will destroy everything you hold dear, they will kill you.

    Just to be picky.
    Cyclic molecules are a large subgroup of carbon based (organic) chemistry.
    The classic organic carbon molecule is a chain, but many if not most of the more complex molecules that allow our bodies to be so complex are in the shape of rings, most commonly six sided like sugar, or five sided.
    Chains and cyclics can combine in hundreds of different forms, some forming very large complicated molecules like DNA and hemoglobin.

    Organic molecules are usually very chemically reactive, so when one that our body is not used to working with gets into our systems and starts messing with normal molecular processes in different tissues and organs it can get ugly.

  5. London Bridges says:

    Diet soda’s main ingredient is Aspartame or Nutrasweet (TM). It was a known toxin when Donald Rumsfeld rammed it through and made millions doing so. S-C-U-M !

    this is fresh news on how good it is.

  6. tigerwine says:

    Not to mention all those favorite AK acronyms: FAA, BIA, BLM, PHS, NWS, NOAA. Those are some of the federal.

    Someone hop in with the AK ones!

  7. Objection your Honor; You hooked me when you clearly stated(for some reason) that Hollis French is left-handed. That surely had to be elemental to the plot. I expected a “007” or someone to become involved. What the heck happened? Then you wrote that someone named Messick said PCP,LSD,etc were similar and synthetic. What does that mean for EPA,NSA,PETA,NFL,ABC and any others you can think of? I really liked your article and read every bit of it. At this rate your gonna need to get”Brianized” real soon. Thank you for the information.

  8. London Bridges says:

    Interestingly, the food industry and the medicinal drug industry in the U.S. both operate with corporate profits as their primary purpose. Many foods are toxic and unhealthy, like high fructose corn syrup which is in almost every thing these days ans aspartame. Medication drugs have side effects which nearly preclude fully recovering becoming healthy after ingesting a steady diet of these toxic drugs. But the good news these unhealthy foods and drugs are perfectly legal, ill regulated and we are bombarded with 24/7 ads promoting them.

    Example: McDonalds has now taken simple oatmeal and managed to make it high calorie and unhealthy and jam it down our children’s throats.

    If a drug is cheap and effective and cannot be patented it is discredited – like Vitamin C or Turmeric. Why sacrifice profits for someone’s health? There have been cancer cures, but the drugs were cheap, so they were made illegal in the U.S. (You can get them in Canada.

    They tried unsuccessfully to patent turmeric which has no side effects and many health benefits.

    So what I’m saying is that we are so screwed!

    Not promoting ingesting harmful substances, however!

    • Mo says:

      Reading the Wikipedia article on DCA (dichloroacetic acid) and turmors, I’d be damned careful taking something like this without medical supervision. Neuropathy is no joke. And I’m a cancer victim, so you can be sure I’m keenly interested in things like this.

    • I mind the time when Gov’t programs were designed with consumer safety in mind. Products that were manufactured when I was young didn’t routinely kill their customers and gov’t didnt have to interfere to make sure manufacturer’s kept products user safe and friendly.Then we got a string of bad Rethuglican Perpetrators and they were encouraged to level the playing field so Korporate Amerika could finally get the billions and trillions they longed for without the burden of regulations and lawsuits and taxes. That is where we are today. I would not want to try to sue Korp.Am. in today’s climate.

  9. Sarafina says:

    I thought it was very good at least one of the panel participants was concerned about the burgeoning prison population. If resources were dedicated to preventing kids using drugs, THESE RESOURCES NEED TIME AND WILLING BODIES, maybe the prison population wouldn’t be the biggest cash crop since marijuana.

    There are proven techniques to help kids succeed including mentors and other structured activities. Maybe not every kid will be saved, but many more will have a better chance.

  10. Irishgirl says:

    Jamie Oliver: Sarah Palin A ‘Froot Loop’ For Criticizing Michelle Obama

  11. dreamgirl says:

    Natural cures are God’s gift to us. The synthesizing of those is just man’s greed and poison.

  12. tigerwine says:

    Well, this is scary!

  13. beth says:

    DS2 was in the ‘first wave’ of students subjected to the “Just Say No” campaign in the early 80s. He was introduced to the look, avalibility, effect, and ‘consequences’ of drugs he never, in a million years, would have even thought about. Every year, he was ‘introduced’ to more of them through the program. As a result of all of this, for years now, he has insisted the absolute *worst* thing this nation has done in the War on Drugs, is “Just Say No” (and its off-shoot).

    Did no one bother to think: What will be the actual result if we tell all these kids about all these drugs?

    In the case of DS2’s pals, the reaction was: “Lots of things are bad, but they don’t have big flashy campaigns –with coloring books and pledges and slogans– against them; what is it about drugs that makes them so special? Maybe we should investigate this for ourselves…”

    This notion of wanting to investigate for themselves was reinforced in them year after year in school, on TV, and various other places; for a decade, they had preached at them how horrible and awful drugs were. And the minute they were old enough, at about 13-14, to score some of ‘the gateway drug’, they did. (Surprisingly enough, there were/are *always* older brothers, sisters, ‘big kids’ –sometimes even parents– who had a baggie or two that they’d let the kids have.)

    So the kids smoked a joint or two and discovered what those who’d smoked a joint or two before them, had discovered: ‘It ain’t bad! Matter of fact, it makes you feel kinda good. They kept telling us it was bad, but it’s not — I like how it makes me feel.’ And then they thought: ‘If the Just Say No people said marajuana is so awful, were they lying to us about other drugs, too? Maybe we should check those other drugs out, by G_d, because this marijuana, this awful drug, is some good chit!’

    Today the “Just Say No” campaign has become “Drug Abuse Resistance Education” — I cringe each time the local paper has a photo of the latest bunch of shiny-faced kids who’ve been ‘educated’ about the “dangers of drugs” through D.A.R.E. Officer Jana and Officer Fred of the police department might be nice guys, might have all the training for ‘educating’ the kids about drug abuse, and might think they’re doing a bang-up job, but imho, their D.A.R.E. message is as misguided as it is a waste of time. The very act of singling out a drug to discuss it, makes it intriguing and gives that drug an irresistable mystique; spotlighting the drug, glamorizes the drug. The program, imho, is nothing more than a feel-good *for adults!* to a very real problem…for it’s target audience, it’s utterly useless.

    I don’ think the reaction to the ‘education’ programs DS2 and his friends had, is unique. I’d be willing to bet that many, many, MANY kids have had –and have- the exact same reaction. [Chuckle] Our kids are smart. Damn smart. You think if we ask them if they think the D.A.R.E. program is good, they’re going to say it isn’t? Oh, hell to the no! They are going to tell us *exactly* what we want to hear: “The D.A.R.E. program is good; it taught me to stand up for myself and not do drugs. It taught me I can be anything I want to be and I should never take drugs.” As GW would say, “mission accomplished” as far as ‘adults’ are concerned. And the kids just laugh at the absurdity of slogans and banners and pledges…and at the ‘adults’ who are dumb enough to think otherwise. [/chuckle]

    Personally, I think marijuana should be sold legally…and taxed. Just like alcohol. And, just like with alcohol (or *any* other substance), if you drive under its influence or do anything under its influence that is prohibited for you to do under the influence of alcohol, you get the book thrown at you. That, I think, is fair. And sane.

    I don’t buy the argument that mj is a ‘gateway drug’; what I do buy, is that if one wants to get high and all drugs to do so are illegal, why stick with one that’s relatively ‘safe’ and won’t cause you to crazy out? If marijuana is illegal, why not just get yourself some other illegal drug, like coke? Or prescription meds off the street or internet or neighbors medicine cabinet? Afterall, isn’t illegal, illegal?

    In his senior year, DS2 wore to school a T-shirt with a mj leaf and the words: “Legalize today, Smoke tonight,” printed on it. He was told he’d either have to turn the shirt inside-out or leave school and not return until the next day (sans that particular shirt). He argued that the shirt was not advocating anything illegal, instead, it was advocating obeying the law and, further, advocating using lawful means to change laws; therefore, he would not turn it inside-out — the school admin would have none of it. He came home. At the time, I wasn’t convinced marijuana should be legalized, but I agreed with him about the message his T-shirt ‘advertised’.

    Now that I’ve seen what 3-decades of “Just Say No” and D.A.R.E ‘education’ has *not* done for our nation, I fully endorse the message his school’s admin found so wrong; legalize marijuana, already! And I wholeheartedly agree with DS2s over-all assessment of the ‘drug education’ programs. They –pardon the expression– suck. beth.

    • Beth,how are you? Even though “Just Say No” was Nancy Rethuglican Raygun’s pet,rethugs can and will point to the war on drugs as another failed Socialist(and therefore) demoncratic snowjob. They can and will use these failed programs to prove that the gov’t cant do anything right and all programs should be privatized -to their campaign donors where possible.

      • beth says:

        All things considered, doing well, mike — thanks for asking. And you’re right — some how, some way, any program(s) that *will* help with the epidemic of drug abuse, will be stopped from even getting out of the starting blocks because of the abject failure of the current programs. Programs, as you so rightly point out, that are from Saint Ronnie’s day, but that will be attributed to the dems/progressives and for which the dems/progressives will be blamed. Gotta love the GOP/TParty’s selective memory and their rewriting of history. beth.

    • 1smartcanerican says:

      My children informed me that the DARE program made them far more interested in checking out the drugs discussed in the classes. They think that the DARE program should be abolished – it was the “gateway” to drugs for them.

      • beth says:

        BINGO! beth.

      • boodog says:

        I’m probably in the minority here, but my kids really thought they learned a lot in the DARE program. Parents were encouraged to sit in, which I did, and continue at-home education. It could be that we were lucky and had a great instructor and the kids were at a young enough age to not think it was lame, I don’t know. I do know my kids are very open about discussing the problems they see with peers and drugs (and sex) and I feel extremely sure my kids will be drug free adults- they are almost grown now. They may or may not experiment, but I think the problems they have encountered with several classmates drug use has been a huge emotional lesson for them. It good to keep communication open, and present a positive roll model to them – which is ironic, since my kids are far better behaved than I ever was at their ages 😉

        • beth says:

          Dollars to donuts (SpudNut, or otherwise) boodog, it wasn’t the D.A.R.E. program that ‘did it’…it was your foresight, ability, and willingness to daily discuss all manner of issues with your kidlets. Evidence of that is given in the fact that you even went to sit in on the program in the first place — if the groundwork hadn’t already been laid *by you* for two-way communications with your chickadees, you (probably) never would have attended — nor would you have, upon attending, suddenly been able to continue the discussion about drugs (or anything else) had that *essential* groundwork not already been in play.

          Both my DSs have pretty much always discussed things with me and/or DH; sometimes at our ‘instigation’, sometimes at theirs. Communications have always been open and honest –according to their age/ability to process the issue’s ins and outs– and from that, I feel we’ve all benefitted. I must say, though, some of the things they (our fully-grown, mid-30yo DSs and, since Nov, our DD-i-L) bring to us now, are things I’d never –in a gazillion, bazillion years! — have even *thought* about discussing with either of my parents! Ever! 😎 beth.

          • boodog says:

            You’re right, beth, but I still think it played an important part in that it reiterated some of the things I was telling them. It wasn’t just mom spouting the usual anti-drug rhetoric. It was a fairly intense program, so they heard my words from a different point of view- a cop’s. I guess the reality is that we need to be proactive and search out all avenues in our communities that might help achieve the goal. (I’m trying to avoid the ‘it takes a village’ phrase!) And these days, parents can use all the help they can get. 🙂

  14. CityKid says:

    Better late than never*

    First let me suggest a good read (though dated):

    Title: Smoke and mirrors : the war on drugs and the politics of failure / Dan Baum.
    APL Loussac, Non-Fiction Level 3 363.450984 MALAMUD

    How odd our culture is when it comes to politics of substances that alter perception. The most dangerous drugs are marketed with acquiescence of our government and sell for big bucks. I do think it’s important to determine which drugs are “safe” and which drugs are detrimental to health. But when it comes to mind altering substances everything becomes very political, with the burden placed on the user. So what, really is wrong with getting high?

    *my posts here are moderated so it sometimes takes days before they are added to the mix

    • CityKid says:

      The forced use of drugs in the US Military Services is also an interesting topic. It’s OK to force troops to use mind altering drugs so that they are “combat ready.” Of course all of the mind altering substances used by DOD are “street legal.” Hmmmm

  15. dreamgirl says:

    With “incense” one never really knows the crap paste they use. Unfortunately this issue is not about incense, it seems to be about another man-made poison sprinkled onto something then inhaled.

    Man-made/synthetic being my main point. The POT, or green stuff, in my mind is just a “flavor” or scent to market a poison not the cause. Just a marketing tool.

  16. Cyclic drugs? There are Tricyclic drugs, heterocyclic drugs, Cyclic is slang for some antidepressants but I have never heard of cyclic street drugs. What the heck are they getting at? BTW, six officers don’t need to render one man unconscious to subdue him, even if he is on PCP, and it only takes four nurses to do it. The bad news is that now that they have made this harmful drug illegal the price will go up and generate high profits for black market activity which will generate crimes so people can pay for it. We will have toxic chemical labs in houses and apartments all over. If they can’t test for this drug and have brought no cases, how can they possible prosecute cases? It seems spending the resources on education and treatment might bring more success. Are they just working to generate more over incarceration for corporate profits? Remember even prisons which are not private buy supplies from prison corporations. When overcrowding gets to the breaking point many states are forced into using private prisons. It’s interesting how they yell about cutting expenses while doing whatever they can to increase them isn’t it. The more people are damaged at the DOC the more homeless psychologically damaged people there will be wandering the streets. Thank you for posting this information. What we really need is for society as a whole to change their thinking about drugs of all kinds including those from drug companies. Tylenol is a very toxic substance and has to be used with caution, but only recently has the FDA made sure people know that. The reason pot is not very toxic is people evolved to use the plants in nature and the toxic substances in pot cause less damage because it contains chemicals that help our bodies break them down. That is why just removing a chemical from a plant and ingesting it in large amounts is often health damaging.

  17. physicsmom says:

    Thanks for the report. Sounds like awful stuff. I had heard about singer Miley Cyrus getting high on Salvia, and I wonder if it had been treated with a similar chemical. It’s another completely legal “herb” that children can smoke without legal repercussions. I’m glad the legislators are being careful about how the law is crafted. Kudos to this committee so far.

    • dreamgirl says:

      Kids who want to get high will find a way. Elmer’s Glue, smelling gasoline, “whippets” from nozzels(SP) on whipped cream cans and on and on and on… They should be very careful studying this issue.

      I just wonder why these kids can’t or wont “get high” from some activity like art, sports, nature.

      • stef g. says:

        Not Elmer’s glue, (yellow or white carpenter’s or craft glue) it is an emulsion of Polyvinyl Acetate in water.

  18. ivan says:

    ” The government is supposed to tell us what is dangerous ” ? really ?

    -We the people hold these truths to be self evident, that we as a people are not capable of existing if we do not have a government to tell us what is dangerous.
    -That we shall allow business to be unregulated even though to not regulate them is clearly dangerous to the public well being.
    -That the rights of business to make profits on the backs of the citizens , un-unionized, trumps all civil liberties.
    -That Jesus does not want to allow the government to help the less fortunate in our society even as those that worship Jesus fail to help said less fortunate, knowing full well that this is the cornerstone of his teaching.
    -That we shall go forth puffing up our chests, shouting GOD BLESS AMERICA .

    First , educating us as to what is dangerous and forbidding us (criminalizing it) from using it are two entirely different things.

    Second, the gov lost its credibility on this matter when they criminalized marijuana and ran a scare propaganda campaign against it calling it a gateway drug. As Americans tried pot and realized that what the government was telling them was a lie they concluded that they must be lying about the other drugs and people did in fact do other drugs , not because marijuana “made them” but because they saw that government was not credible. thus the gateway was not pot itself but the governments lies about pot. Ya gota love irony.
    Education is the answer not legislating ones morality on the masse and costing us all boat loads of money to imprison someone.
    Making it illegal will only make it more attractive to a large segment of society. ( i.e. teenagers who will do what ever you tell them not to)
    i am not saying all drugs should be legal, there is a difference between illegal and crimanalized.
    Education for prevention and compassion and treatment for addiction in the long run will save much more money than prisons, courts and cops.
    i realize that this approach will take away the Conservatives sense of self righteous importance.

    • dreamgirl says:

      “The government is supposed to tell us what is dangerous”.

      LOL! Just for fun my friends- google Fluoride is bad for teeth. The FDA is a tool of Big business and our corrupt officials.

      I have been using tooth powders every since I found out about how I was poisoning myself just by wanting clean teeth and trying to be healthy. FDA= FAIL. I no longer trust our government. Dem nor Repub prez.

  19. Lacy Lady says:

    I agree with A Hired Gun @5
    If marijuana was legalized, that would stop this really bad stuff. Also, I think it would cut down on all the stuff coming across the border.
    I really don’t know how people act when they are smoking marijuana, but can’t be any worse than people who are drunk .
    There were days when alchol was illegal, and there were “speak-easy” places around the country.
    There was a young man who died in our community recently. He was hooked on drugs and wore a “patch”. Don’t know where he would buy something like this, but I guess it’s out there. Sad!

    • dreamgirl says:

      Pot is very medicinal, but this “synthetic” crap is just that– deadly crap. Alcohol is more destructive to life than poor maligned POT, which I believe does cure cancer if applied correctly. (meaning not smoked ).

  20. AKjah says:

    Nice to see we have some adults in the legislature. The laws must be written with great care that we don’t waste young lives. Because bad laws benefit no one. Thanks for writing that informative piece.

  21. keepintime says:

    Acetone is some useful stuff. It’s a good solvent for most plastics and synthetic fibers including those used in laboratory bottles made of polystyrene, polycarbonate and some types of polypropylene. It’s also ideal for thinning fiberglass resin, cleaning fiberglass tools and dissolving two-part epoxies and superglue before hardening. Very handy. It’s also used as a volatile component of some paints and varnishes. As a heavy-duty degreaser, it is useful in the preparation of metal prior to painting; it also thins polyester resins, vinyl and adhesives. So, they disolve the white powder in acetone, then spray it on plant material. Yummy.

    • JaneE says:

      My reaction was . . What?! ACETONE (i.e. in nail polish remover.) Oh my gawd, and then you inhale it!

      That would stop me in a heartbeat.

  22. slipstream says:

    Uh-oh. Now “a sense of impending doom” is a sign of drug use? I have a bad feeling about this. I’m really starting to worry. This is awful. Bad things will happen.

    • dreamgirl says:

      Already started…. just try to find a Hostess Twinkie or HoHo (snicker) on the supermarket shelves…

    • Pinwheel says:

      Isn’t one of the real problems, denial.

      I don’t believe we have ‘resources’ to interdict all the currently listed substances. I believe we spend the limited resources we have to give kids a chance, give all of us a chance. Do not close down the limted opportunities available.

    • Slip-I remember back in Nixon years as Liar-in-Chief when Marijuana use was said to lead to violence. It sure did,you always saw pictures of riot police beating hippies with nightsticks and batons,flashlights and anything else that would dent a youngsters fron grille.

  23. ks sunflower says:

    Finally – politicians who see the complexities involved in situations such this and think about both short-term and long-term consequences. I am impressed.

    No one wants young people to suffer and die from these substances, but most of us probably don’t want them to start their lives with criminal records only because some politician wanted to look tough on drug crime. It has always amazed how the people who profit most from drug use are rarely the ones to spend time in jail; it’s just easier to nab the small users and make headlines and appear as if progress is being made. It’s what has become the go-to reaction for the GOP. They only want to get votes and not truly improve the health of the community. It is about time we had more politicians who consider all the ramifications of a situation, including the real impact on the lives of the kids and their communities.

    Better that kids become educated about the dangers of these chemicals and if they do use it get psychological treatment as to why they sought the drugs and medical treatment for any physical effects. Education first always pays off and, no, I do not mean the Nancy Reagan type of “just say no” approach. If kids know the consequences and the risks, fewer will dare to try it.

    For example, studies in colleges have shown that if you show students photos or videos of the damage that STDs can do to their bodies, their looks, et cetera, most become less eager to indulge in risky behaviors. Of course, the information must be realistic, relevant and kept up-to-date. Problem is, most short-sighted parents would cringe at teaching this as part of sex education or health classes. Many are as reluctant to have candid information about drug usage presented to their children either.

    At least Wielechowski, French, and Paskvan come across as responsible, thinking adults who are trying to come to terms with the totality of the situation instead of rushing through another ill-conceived, impracticable “show” law. I hope voters read and remember this.

    Thanks, Jeanne, for providing in-depth insight into the hearing for those unable to attend. This is truly a service and blessing for all Alaskans.

  24. AHiredGun says:

    Just another reason why marijuana needs to be legalized. If this were to happen, spice would disappear almost overnight.

  25. Paula says:

    A few months ago I wrote an article on this “spice,” very, very dangerous, along with “bath salts.” Expects to end up in the ER with some serious side effects, including fun stuff like cardiac arrest, and that’s the GOOD side effect. Nasty shit.

  26. John says:

    This is a really bad chemical that is being marketed as safe to inhale. It isn’t. I don’t like the idea of prosecuting users (or users of other drugs), but I’m fine with throwing the book at the dealers and manufacturers.

    • gens says:

      “This is a really bad chemical that is being marketed as safe to inhale.” – Tobacco

      Tobacco, Methadone, Alcohol, Prescription drugs are also marketed as “safe”, well “loosely marketed as safe regulated drugs”

      It does not matter whether a drug is legal or illegal, all drugs can be abused and contain harmful chemicals (regulated or non-regulated). Addiction is not a voluntary choice..its a side effect of drug abuse, drug use may be a choice; however, over time a drug alters the chemistry of the brain and body resulting in the compulsive need of the drug.

      It is estimated that tobacco causes 40 percent of all hospital illnesses, while alcohol is involved in more than 50 percent of all visits to hospital emergency rooms.

    • dreamgirl says:

      I agree with you John.

  27. Susan says:

    I started hearing about this stuff about the same time the rest of Alaska did. It’s an interesting point, that it was good marketing for the manufacturers to spray it on plant material instead of having it look like LSD or some other drug. Definitely gets the younger crowd interested if it looks rather harmless. Obviously, since it looks like marijuana, people smoke it. If it were on a paper or sugar cube, it would be eaten. Anybody know if the effects are different if it it is ingested by mouth? Just curious. This post clears up some questions I had whenever I read about this in the paper, like how, exactly, did anyone think that hallucinations, violence, and super-human strength were anything like what you’d see in someone who was high? Synthetic marijuana it is not.

  28. psminidivapa says:

    Similar issues at spouse and my schools with “bath salts,” which are some wicked synthetic drug that kids can buy online and that have some strange and inconsistent effects – but are technically, and can be used as BATH SALTS. Not technically illegal, but have been deadly locally.

    Regardless of number of local young people who have issues with drugs – overdoses, killing people whilst DUI, arrests, etc., our students think it “will never happen to them.”

    • I read recently that politicians are drawing up legislation to criminalize or get rid of bath salts.

      • beth says:

        I think that’s not all bath salts, mike, just the “special” bath salts. Calgon, Badedas, Epsom, and the rest, as I understand it, are fine…it’s the ones that’ve been ‘enhanced’ specifically for purposes *other than* making a bubbly, relaxing tub, that are being banned/criminalized. The ‘designer’ bath salts that are being sold and which ‘kids’ are using to get high, now ’em ‘re some nasty, nasty chit. beth.

      • thatcrowwoman says:

        No worries, mike…a friend in Tel Aviv sent me a jar from the Sea of Life (aka the Dead Sea). Legal, kosher, and soaks my worries away.

        This “spice” stuff and tiny packets of “bath salts” costing $70 and up have been banned locally. Nasty stuff with nasty consequences. Nothing anybody should be putting in a pipe and smoking.

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