Flo Says "No" to Not-Pot

As promised, Senator files bill to ban synthetic dope

Flo Says

As expected, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, on Wednesday filed a bill to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of not-pot – herbal compounds laced with any of a number of synthetic cannabinoids that mimic certain properties of marijuana.

The need for such a bill, she told reporters at her Jan. 12 press conference, is clear: The kids are using the shit, sold under the names K2 and Spice, and it isn't regulated. That, she posits, is a recipe for disaster. "I am very, very concerned about where we are going if we don't ban this product," she said.

Shapiro was joined by several House members – including Waco GOP Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson (who may never have met a substance that he doesn't want to ban) – a Dallas-area doctor (who says he's seen first-hand the negative effects of not-pot), and McKinney Council member Geralyn Kever (a corporate communication consultant – including for pharmaceutical companies), who was the first to bring the menace of not-pot to Shapiro's attention last year. According to Kever, the "bottom line is…these drugs provide a safety hazard to our families and to our children."

Although a handful of municipalities across Texas, including McKinney, have banned not-pot, it will take state lawmakers to do away with it altogether, Kever said. According to the Dallas doctor, who works at a children's hospital, he's seen teens at the ER complaining of heart palpitations and it took questioning them for the doctors to discover that they'd taken something "like K2." He also said that he's aware of two cases in the Dallas area where not-pot users have developed evidence of heart attack.

Nobody knows exactly how large a problem not-pot presents to the public, Shapiro said – though Ft. Worth Dem Rep. Lon Burnam told reporters that "scores" of teens from a high school in his district cross the street "every day" to score K2 at the nearby convenience store.

Anderson – who this session is continuing his quest to outlaw Salvia divinorum (a move that researchers adamantly protest because the potent natural hallucinogen – part of the sage family – has great promise for use in treatment of diseases such as Alzheimers) –warns that K2 is actually far more dangerous that marijuana. It's "much more of a problem," he said, and has a "higher risk of addiction."

Whether that is actually true isn't at all clear. Researchers say that the substances bind more easily to brain receptors that heighten the psychotropic effects of the cannabinoid-like compounds – whereas marijuana binds to multiple receptors – but there isn't any clear consensus that this makes the not-pot any more dangerous. Indeed, as Clemson Univ. organic chemist, professor John Huffman, the creator of one of the compounds found in not-pot products, told the UK Guardian, the compound was nothing special, and he's actually surprised its taken this long for folks to figure out how to make it. "I've lived around the world a long time," he said. "I've come to the conclusion that if an enterprising person wants to find a new way to get high, they're going to do it."

Well, not if the contingent of Texas lawmakers headed by Flo have anything to say about it.

It seems that the not-pot scare is based on just that, fear. Even Shapiro noted that it is "mounting anecdotal evidence" that is driving her to propose the ban.

This is at least the fourth such bill to be filed this session. Although money is clearly tight at the Lege this year – meaning lawmakers will be hard-pressed to create new and greater criminal penalties since, after all, money is needed to prosecute and incarcerate offenders – it seems safe at this point to guess that the hysteria over not-pot, which has swept the country over the last year, will be ripe not only for dramatic committee testimony, but also for likely passage.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Marijuana, war on drugs, not-pot, synthetic marijuana, Reefer Madness, Legislature, Legislature 2011, Florence Shapiro

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