K2 is bad stuff.

Maybe you never heard of it. But it's out there. And there's a good chance your teenager or someone in your family or circle of friends has heard of it, and maybe tried using it.

K2 is a blend of herbs treated with chemicals to produce a marijuana-like high in users, and nearly always causes unwanted side effects in its users.

Sounds dangerous, doesn't it?

It is. But it's so new it is not considered a controlled substance and it is sold openly on the internet and in head shops under the names "Demon" and "Hawaiian Haze."

Some patients have needed to be trranquilized by doctors after smoking K2, and the drug can cause symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, confusion, nausea, agitation, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures. The American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning earlier this year on the effects of synthetic marijuana, but to date nothing has been done to curtail its use and its distribution.

Legislation, House Bill 176, the Act to Ban Synthetic Marijuana, was introduced last week in the Pennsylvania House, by Rep. Jennifer L. Mann, D-Lehigh. If passed, the legislation will ban the sale or use of K2.

"My legislation would ensure those found possessing K2 would be subject to the same laws as those possessing marijuana," Mann said. "Mixes sold on the street marked as K2 contain various dangerous chemicals which present real health risk to users. We must act immediately to ban this substance to protect the Commonwealth's children."

The drug is so new, no federal or Pennsylvania law exists to give police the right to arrest those possessing K2.

"By setting clear guidelines on the use and consumption of synthetic marijuana, we empower our law enforcement personnel to stop the spread of this new threat to our children and communities," Mann added.

We hope House Bill 176 gets all the attention it deserves in our legislature, and we hope lawmakers act quickly to pass legislation banning its use. The last thing we need is another harmful substance getting into the hands of our young people.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com.