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In September a Hastings College student was hospitalized after ingesting K2. It is one example why law enforcement said K2 should be banned, they said it's not meant to be ingested or smoked and you can't guarantee you know what's in it.
"As a forensic scientist I heard people talking about in 2008," said Christine Gabig, Forensic Scientist.
That's right. Two years ago. But only recently have researchers been learning more.
Gabig ran tests on two packets of incense people said causes a high when smoked one is K2 a popular brand name, the other, black magic.
What she found: two chemical compounds mixed with the herbs: JWH-018 and JWH-073. They sound like a random combination of letters and numbers but it's the chemical compound that causes the high.
"These were chemicals that were manufactured in the lab for medical research. They work physiologically and biologically the same as THC," said Gabig.
THC that's the chemical found in marijuana, isn't it?
"You know when studies the medical possibilities involved in THC and marijuana your going to study other drugs that work the same as THC and people learned how to make these or buy them in bulk qualities and other companies and they take this stuff and spray it on herbs and sell it," said Gabig.
Gabig said these compounds can be more dangerous than THC. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure, can cause extreme paranoia and it's hard to say how much of the synthetic chemical will be mixed into a packet.
"Each packet can be different and has been shown to be different," said Gabig
That's why you hear stories of people smoking it for months and then one day have a dangerously unpleasant experience. But hold on. Those who sell the incense said, they weren't supposed to be smoking it in the first place.
"Every label says this is not intended for human consumption," said Rhonda DeCamp, Whirligigs.
Rhonda DeCamp sells incense at her store in Hastings. A small portion of her incense inventory does carry the JWH compound, but don't get the wrong idea. She said she sells them as incense
"You could steep them as a tea use them like a potpourri," said Rhonda DeCamp.
She won't sell them if she gets the impression that someone plans to smoke or eat it.
"If someone comes in here and says I'm going to misuse incense for example, then they're asked to leave the premise,” said DeCamp.
There is incense without JWH in it? So why have the product that the chemical compound in it?
Well, she said its just a better incense.
She made me smell the brand with JWH. I was very impressed, even a little stuffed up it's a strong scent, and very sweet.
Then she made me smell the brands without JWH. It smelled good, but very flat and dull.
DeCamp said these incenses have gotten some bad publicity, but pulling incenses with JWH leaves you with a lesser product on the shelves.
"What happens is that people misuse certain products, you hear the horror stories of the misuse of the products and that's what people focus on, they not focused on the whole picture," said DeCamp
Now I did ask researchers why the JWH incense smelled sweeter. I was told it was coincidence. That JWH didn't serve as a preservative or anything like that.
But I can tell you there was a huge discrepancy between the two products I smelled.
Now there is legislation being introduced in Nebraska to ban these types of incense. It’s coming from Senator McCoy from Omaha. It will put forth the legislature in January.
It will have an emergency clause so it will take effect immediately if passed.
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