Synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of illegal narcotics are proliferating, and Michigan lawmakers and police agencies are struggling to keep up, reports the Detroit News. More than 50 people have been treated at Michigan hospitals this year after using K2, a synthetic form of marijuana that was banned under a state law that took effect last month. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced plans last week to ban five chemicals used in synthetic drugs. Developers of such substances typically make minor chemical changes to avoid having them classified as illegal.
“A slight change in the chemical – moving a carbon here or there – will change the legal status of these drugs,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which favors legalizing marijuana. “And the audience for fake pot is kids.” State Reps. Rick Jones and Lisa Brown worked for nearly five months this year to push through a ban on a handful of simulated narcotics that have no medical use. Besides K2, the measure outlaws BZP, which Brown calls “fake Ecstasy,” and two psychoactive plants: Catha edulis, called by its street names Khat or Qat; and Salvia divinorum. The federal ban, which takes effect in late December, is for a year and covers three of the five JWH variants covered by Michigan’s new law.