It’s called a synthetic cannabanoid, and it is related to marijuana but in some ways, K2 is even more dangerous than the marijuana it is supposed to replace.

It’s called a synthetic cannabanoid, and it is related to marijuana but in some ways, K2 is even more dangerous than the marijuana it is supposed to replace.

Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan said his department has dealt with 24 incidents related to K2, the synthetic form of marijuana sold over the counter in many places as incense, potpurri or bath salts.

In two of these incidents, the people involved had to be hospitalized with drug overdoses, in others, people were arrested for possessing the drug or driving under the influence.

In all of these cases, Dagnan said, the people involved didn’t really know exactly what they had.

“K2 is more dangerous than marijuana because it’s not legal and it’s not regulated,” Dagnan said. “Marijuana is bad, but at least you know what you’ve got. Whether you buy K2 in incense or potpurri, you may smoke one bag and it doesn’t work because there is no synthetic drug in that package. Then you might smoke another package and get an overdose with the same amount because there was quite a bit of the synthetic drug. You don’t know what you’re going to get in those packages.”

Carthage police recently raided the Bengal Shop convenience store and seized more than 220 packages of K2, being sold as incense over the counter.

No charges have been filed in that incident.

That was legal before August 2010 when Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a state law outlawing K2 and other substances sprayed with a synthetic substance similar to the active ingredient in marijuana.

Robin Standridge, Drug Free Communities Director for the Alliance of Southwest Missouri, said her group is focusing attention on the dangers of K2.

“Drug abuse ultimately destroys lives, families, and communities,” Standridge, a parent herself in Carthage, said. “Specifically, synthetic drugs are unpredictable and can vary from batch to batch. This makes these particular drugs extremely dangerous. One batch may have little effect on the user, while the next batch could send the same person into a psychotic episode, or even cause death.

“The physicians struggle to know exactly which symptom to treat because of the unknown substances contained in these illegal drugs.”

Standridge said young people in Carthage are aware of K2 and the substance is packaged in such a way to make it attractive to kids.

“That does not mean they necessarily use these drugs,” Standridge said. “It means they have been exposed in some way either through their Facebook account, television, or by friends and family. We are cautious when sharing news about emerging drug trends. It is a fine line to walk when talking with our youth. We must educate without sparking the curiosity to experiment.”

Carthage High School principal Kandy Frazier said the school district works with a strong network of community organizations to help teens learn the dangers of K2 and other substances as they become available.

“Our students are not immune to the trends that plague teens around the world,” Frazier said. “One of the things I feel our students have as an advantage is that we have a strong community. Carthage has many groups from family support, churches, educational and law enforcement that work hard to regulate and educate our teens, parents and community members about the challenges our teens face.”

Frazier said the district deals with all incidents of students having K2 and other illegal substances harshly, but they also try to provide help as well to the student and his or her family.

“As with any drug violation including K2 we follow the board approved discipline for school,” Frazier said. “We also offer information to the family regarding resources in the community to assist the family with counseling or rehabilitation.”