What is known about the “synthetic” form of marijuana called K2 is that it is not marijuana at all, but variations of the chemical that is found in the Cannabis plant.

What is known about the “synthetic” form of marijuana called K2 is that it is not marijuana at all, but variations of the chemical that is found in the Cannabis plant.

And, the chemical tinkering which manufacturers and dealers of K2 have done has heightened the danger of the drug.

K2 is a Schedule VI controlled substance in Arkansas, Eighth Judicial District-North Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen said. Possession of K2 is a crime in Arkansas; and, possession of over four ounces of the substance is a felony, according to McQueen.

Under Act 329 of 2013, there are at least 20 variations of synthetic chemical compositions equivalent to the substance contained in the Cannabis plant that are considered Schedule VI controlled substances. They are classified by chemical composition because illegal drug manufacturers and dealers, principally from China, continue to find methods of synthetically reformulating the drug to keep it off the list.

“What we are finding out is that over two or three years, it has emerged and is growing in the state,” Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane said.

Lane is involved in drug education for the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police.

“They've changed the chemical composition within the controlled substance statute, and the manufacturers will try to change little nuances in it to try to make it legal,” he said.

He said the concept of “synthetic” drugs has grown to the extent that the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute now offers a class on the subject for law enforcement officers.

“You're looking for a whole different chemical makeup,” Lane said. “Arkansas has a very good statute on it.”

Lane said the drug is most-often sold in so-called “head shops,” or “Mom and Pop” convenience outlets that offer various types of paraphernalia that can be legally sold but are most often used to smoke or ingest illicit drugs.

He said products which use the words “high” or “grass” on labeling are indicative of having a K2 presence.

Lane said the use of the drug as a “frosting” or coating for mediums such as incense or herbs that can be burned, or other mediums where the drug can be ingested, has given rise to referring to its use on a medium as “frosted flakes.”

“It's kind of like a frosting; a lot of it because it is coated or 'frosted' with the chemical substance that gets you high because it is coated,” he said. “There is a whole other language you have to know.”

Lane said the flow of illegal drugs in Arkansas is typically from south to north; but, K2 has been different, in that the latest busts in Benton have been of carriers traveling from north to south. Lane said New Orleans police have reported an influx of the drug during Mardi Gras this year.

“We worked a case with the DEA; it started in Conway at a gas station,” he said. “They got ripped off there, so they moved it to Benton to a nice neighborhood. They were distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars; and, during that period, we saw a big flurry of emergency room visits.”

Lane said K2 is dangerous because it acts upon the body to create wild, erratic behavior, such as seizures. But, he said that changes in national attitudes about marijuana, per se, have made it difficult to make the case against the dangers of K2.

“People are starting to accept a belief of this behavior as recreational,” he said. “It's an educational process to get this information out to people.”