A bill has passed out of the Alaska State Legislature to outlaw the sale or possession of 10 different chemical combinations used individually or collectively to create "synthetic cannabinoids" that's reportedly caused "heart attack-like symptoms" for Alaskans.
In Anchorage and elsewhere, the products have been sold under the brands K2 and Spice. Both products are being manufactured and branded as incense but advertised as "drugs that get you high." And they've done so, until recently, without breaking any laws. They look like marijuana but are not; essentially, these leafy products are sprayed with various chemicals that, until recently, were unclassified under law.
House Bill 7 was passed by both chambers in April. It aims to get K2, Spice and other synthetics off the streets and out of smoke shops by making various chemical compounds schedule IIIA controlled substances. Possession or distribution of these chemicals -- either in "leafy" or liquid form -- could become punishable, depending on quantity, as a Class C felony down to a misdemeanor.
The Senate altered the legislation to make it less punitive in smaller quantities. K2 and Spice have been sold in packages of 3 grams or less. Having such a small amount would only result in a misdemeanor. Lawmakers were reportedly worried about "making felons" of teens that had purchased such small amounts.
The bill becomes law once Parnell signs it; currently, it's scheduled to go into effect July 1. At least nine other states -- Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan and Tennessee -- have criminalized cannabinoids. In March, the federal government issued an "emergency listing" under the Controlled Substances Act of five compounds used to produce synthetic cannabinoids.
Chemicals used to manufacture K2 or Spice were listed as Schedule 1 drugs, the most dangerous kind according to the act. An emergency listing lasts for a year and gives scientists time to study the effects of the substances, as well as whether they should become permanently controlled.
Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated June 6. Originally it stated that the Legislature had sent the bill to Gov. Sean Parnell and awaited his signature. The Legislature has not sent the bill to Parnell yet for his signature, according to an aide for a cosponsor to the legislation.]