Is a legal alternative to marijuana safer?

By Victor Ocasio
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K2, a widely manufactured product marketed as incense has grown in popularity over recent years for its more practical use as a smoking substitute for marijuana, giving users a similar mental euphoria comparable to that of its illegal and criminalized counterpart.

As of December 24 of last year, the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency has announced plans to outlaw certain blends of the incense for one year in order to conduct medical research to determine if the blends will be placed on the United States’ list of controlled substances similarly to cannabis.

Only 16 states have set in place laws regarding the use of K2 and four states (Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and Oregon) have banned it completely.The substance has remained in almost a legal loop hole within varying state legislation. Florida remains in the majority of states that have not banned its use, sale, or possession.

Containing a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, K2 is part of a growing industry including other brands such as Spice and Red X Dawn that are sold state-wide at locally owned gas stations and smoke shops.

But issues regarding the recreational use of these synthetic substances in place of marijuana remain present, with the only medical observations being those made by doctors treating emergency room patients who have smoked the incense.

Reported side effects have included anxiety, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, nausea, high blood pressure and paranoia.

Despite all this surface evidence pointing toward the legitimate medical dangers of K2, it is still as easy to purchase as a pack of gum.

Cannabis plays an overwhelming role in America’s underground culture, it’s status as a Schedule 1 drug makes continued research on it’s possible health benefits a tedious process for scientists and doctors.

Even with all of this early research pointing toward the benefits of marijuana, and K2’s soon to be evident negative health effects, public health concerns are not the major factor guiding the agenda of governmental powers.

It seems that those in charge have their priorities reversed, lead by hypocrisy and backward rulings, and are leaving the impressionable youth no legal recourse besides turning to a substance as mysterious as its name would suggest, putting their selves at a greater risk than they would using cannabis.

Escaping the issue is impossible; Americans have, will and are smoking marijuana. Perhaps beating around the bush and putting lives at risk isn’t the best solution to a resolvable issue. Maybe legalization isn’t the worst that can happen.