K2, or spice, an incense that produces effects similar to marijuana when smoked, has become a popular recreational drug this year, catching the attention of media such as Newsweek and The New York Times.
K2's popularity as a substitute for marijuana is not at all surprising considering it's readily available at many gas stations and entirely legal in Virginia. The health effects, however, are both more mysterious and seemingly more severe than marijuana use. As The Breeze reported in the Oct. 21 article, "Fake pot, real high," there have been cases where users have become psychotic or had seizures.
The message policymakers should be taking from K2's popularity is that there will always be people who want to get high, and they'll always find a way to do it. Bans of the substance in 10 states, with more following, show that they are treating K2 as a threat to our communities.
The War on Drugs is failing because of this blindness to the root causes of drug use and abuse. The story of K2 will be another one where our world gets unhealthier and less free, instead of smarter and healthier.
Getting high is a behavior that many consistent voters, specifically older Americans and conservatives, frown upon so it's easy to make it a crime and punish the users who garner almost no political sympathy.
It's the easy way around dealing with the real issue, because it allows people to feel like their society is actively trying to encourage healthy living while punishing a group whose voice is rarely heard. We can pretend the problem is solved and sleep easier at night.
If more news about K2 abuse finds its way to our comfortably sheltered lives, we can just throw money at enforcement and increase penalties until we feel safe again. And at no point in this process do we become healthier, safer or smarter.
If K2 were to be treated as just another in the long history of recreational drugs, we would see the futility of trying to legislate away this behavior just because we disapprove. It didn't work with alcohol, it isn't working with marijuana - which is estimated to be the largest cash crop in the country by the Coalition for Researching Cannabis - and it won't work with anything else.
If K2 is treated as a threat, then banning it won't be the best option. K2 is just a substitute for marijuana, so nothing would decrease its usage more effectively than legalizing marijuana - a natural substance with negative health effects less severe than alcohol, tobacco and many other legal medications. This option won't be discussed by states because it's much easier to punish users than to have a serious discussion about the natural role recreational drug use has in our society.
Whether marijuana use is dangerous or no big deal, consider which solution to K2 is preferable. Banning K2 restricts our liberty by telling adults that they are not allowed to choose for themselves what they buy and consume, adds more costs to our law enforcement and justice system and turns thousands of people who haven't hurt anyone into criminals.
Personally, I'll take a healthier world of legal marijuana over one where people have to choose between their hobbies, health and the law. I'll take a world where adults decide for themselves over one where they're told what they can and cannot do with their money and bodies. I'll take a free world over a never ending War on Drugs.