TOPEKA — A bill aimed at stopping the spread of synthetic marijuana won the Kansas House's approval Wednesday, as legislators move quickly to enact what they believe is the nation's first ban on altered herbs sometimes known as "K2" or "Spice."
The bill, approved 110-11, targets two chemicals that are sprayed or sprinkled as a powder on herbs, so that they can be smoked and produce a pot-like high. The legislation also deals with two chemicals used for a new form of the illegal, euphoria-inducing drug Ecstasy.
It would become illegal to possess or sell those chemicals, just as it is for marijuana.
Law enforcement officials in northeast Kansas have said they began seeing people using synthetic but legal marijuana last summer.
"It has expanded over the last six months," said Master Deputy Chris Farkes of the Johnson County Sheriff's Department, who handles drug cases. "This one product is going to be for this niche group that wants to get high but doesn't want to get caught."
The Senate approved its own bill two weeks ago, 36-1. Its measure is slightly different, and the two chambers must agree on a single version.
"We can do this quickly," said Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, a pharmacist who's pushing her chamber's bill.
A ban would take effect within two weeks of Gov. Mark Parkinson signing it. Critics of the proposals argue that legislators are moving too quickly and not taking time to consider whether synthetic marijuana could have medical uses.
"It just seems like this discussion is a little premature," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, where at least one store is selling the synthetic but legal marijuana. "This bill has been put on a fast track, and I'm not sure this is a prolific issue that merits us taking action right now."