KANSAS CITY (AP) - Police in Kansas and Missouri report a multitude of synthetic marijuana busts after lawmakers banned the herb-based product that was once sold openly in coffeehouses, gas stations and convenience stores.
In Kansas City, police reported that investigators recovered more than 12 pounds of the substance during an early August violent-crime initiative.
The Kansas City Star reported that an earlier raid yielded 10,000 packets of synthetic pot, each weighing 3 to 5 grams. And a citizen complaint recently led to the seizure of 1,000 grams at a retail establishment, said Maj. Jan Zimmerman, commander of the narcotics and vice division of the Kansas City Police Department.
"We're just raking it in," Kansas City police Sgt. Brad Dumit said. "We're seeing it all over the place."
Johnson County Sheriff's Department Deputy Tom Erickson said the substance is showing up in all the typical places where illegal drugs are found.
Police and public health experts say that users seeking the more benign high associated with marijuana may be unprepared for the synthetic version, most commonly known as K2 or K3. Users describe a more intense but shorter high, with effects lasting about 20 minutes as opposed to several hours.
Lawmakers in both Kansas and Missouri last year outlawed chemicals used to produce it. But synthetic pot once again proliferated after slight variations were made to its chemical makeup that weren't covered by the law.
"It's hard to stay ahead of designer drugs," said Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka. "People designing them can be very creative."
This year, lawmakers went one step further, approving new laws covering the entire class of chemical compounds that were being used to circumvent the previous laws.
"I think the new law covers all of those variables," Zimmerman said of the new Missouri law. "The new legislation closes that loophole."
Under the beefed up Missouri and Kansas laws, distribution and manufacture of the banned substances is a felony. Possession of small amounts is considered a misdemeanor.