Clever chemists skirt laws through changing K-2 formula

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's known as herbal incense, spice, or K-2. Whatever you call it, law enforcement says it's dangerous and needs to be banned in South Carolina.

"We're all trying to figure out the most comprehensive way to combat the challenge we face with synthetic drugs," said Dr. Wendy Bell, a toxicologist with the State Law Enforcement Division.

Bell says the Department of Health and Environmental Control banned more than 50 different chemicals found in fake pot last year, but in a matter months, synthetic drug makers altered the ingredients.

The altering made new and perfectly legal versions of the synthetics.  

"It's difficult for us to guess as to what they're going to distribute next," Bell said.

Stanley Presnell is upset that drug makers have found a way around the ban.

"We can't allow them to do this," Presnell said.

Presnell says his 17-year old son got high off smoking spice purchased by an adult friend at a Columbia smoke shop called Seven Sense.

"I don't want my son to die from it, I don't want to see anyone else's child die from it in South Carolina," Presnell said.

Jack Walton owns Seven Sense. He says the product he sells has the altered ingredients and should have only been burned as incense.

"If he's misused the product and abused it to a point where he has a problem, does this business, this store, or the product itself have anything to do with that?" Walton said.

"Drinking bleach and huffing paint, is Walmart responsible for that?"

Regardless, Bell says a new ban is needed immediately, and DHEC and state law enforcement are working to find a way to take stronger action.

"It's going to be a challenge for the next several years as far as we can see in the future because the chemists that are illicitly manufacturing these compounds are creative. There's a lot of money in this industry to be made," Bell said.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.