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INDEPENDENCE — A popular and controversial new way to get high has found its way to Grayson County, according to Sheriff Richard Vaughan.
The “herbal incense” products, marketed under the brand name K2 and available on the Internet, have come under fire for their health effects. Some of the K2 products are banned — but not in Virginia — and some are legal in all states.
“We had our first known report of a K2 overdose in Grayson County,” Vaughan said last week. “The young man smoked the exotic herbs and it caused him to have hallucinations and to be disoriented for days.”
The sheriff said there is no legitimate purpose for K2, “and it appears to only have negative results.”
Smoking the herbal blends can mimic some of the effects of marijuana.
Vaughan said that, as far as he knows, there are no businesses selling K2 in Grayson County, but the herb packets are readily available over the Internet.
K2 is illegal in several states, and could soon be outlawed in Virginia. Legislators plan to propose bills in the 2011 General Assembly session to ban the products.
Vaughan said the Virginia Sheriff's Association is supporting the legislation.
In the meantime, “we need to get the word out about this potentially harmful product,” the sheriff said.
John Huffman, a professor of organic chemistry at Clemson University, developed the chemical substances found in K2 in 1995, while doing research on the effects of cannabinoids — like the substances found in marijuana — on the brain.
He's not sure how the recipes got picked-up, but he is taken aback in how they are being used.
"The real problem is that we really don't know anything about it," he said during a recent interview. Consuming K2 "is like playing Russian Roullette."