Iowa and Illinois pushing for stricter laws banning K2 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa and Illinois pushing for stricter laws banning K2

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GALENA, Ill. (KWWL) -

A bill introduced Tuesday in the Iowa House would expand the number of drugs designated as the illegal K2, also known as synthetic marijuana.

Earlier this month, three teens at a Des Moines-area high school went to the hospital after using K2.

State legislators have outlawed the drug in Iowa, but not all synthetic marijuana has the same chemical composition, so many varieties of it are still legal in the state.

Illinois is facing that very same issue and battling it in the Legislature.

Tuesday, the Illinois House read and debated its own bill that would expand both the definition of and punishments for distributing and possessing the synthetic drugs K2 and what's known as bath salts or convenience store cocaine.

Tuesday morning, officials in law enforcement, schools and medicine from throughout northwest Illinois gathered at the Midwest Medical Center in Galena, Ill. to learn more about the synthetic drugs K2 and bath salts.

Terry Kurt is the Jo Daviess County, Ill. state's attorney and attended Tuesday morning's seminar. He said he has seen K2 pop up in the county just within the last year or so.

"We've probably had probably a dozen cases so far, and the problem we have is, they're usually juveniles, which means it's confidential, so it doesn't get into the newspaper...because we have to protect the confidentiality of the minor," Kurt said. "We've been seeing it more and more, but it just really hasn't gotten out in the public."

Mike Hood is Illinois' deputy attorney general for criminal justice and co-lead the seminar on synthetic drugs K2 and bath salts.

"They are killing and injuring children and young adults all over the state, from Cairo to Rockford to Chicago, and in some places, they're very easy to get, but just one use can send you to the hospital," he said.

East Dubuque Junior-Senior High School sent a guidance counselor and school nurse to the seminar. Principal Darren Sirianni said the school has not yet seen any instances of synthetic drug use but he's trying to be proactive by educating staff, parents and students.

"All it takes is a couple to try something and all of a sudden, it's here," Sirianni said. "Even though it's got the label, 'synthetic,' even though it might have that packaging that they're trying to catch your eye with, that doesn't make it any less dangerous."

K2 is made by spraying onto a particular plant a chemical compound that mimics the effect of smoking marijuana.

The chemicals, however, can vary widely, as manufacturers continue to alter the composition to stay ahead of states' specific bans.

"You have no idea what chemical you're placing in your body," Hood said. "The chemicals that are being used here have never been tested on animals or humans, and so, like some have said, it's like playing Russian Roulette every time you use them."

That's why states are working to ban all varieties of the drugs.

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