Synthetic pot banned; some stores still selling it

Rob Koebel, Stephanie Graham and the I-Team

Synthetic pot banned; some stores still selling it

By Rob Koebel, Stephanie Graham and the I-Team. CREATED Jul 12, 2011

MILWAUKEE - Spice, K2, Purple Magic. It goes by many different names on the street, but one thing stays the same: synthetic marijuana is dangerous, even deadly.

The I-Team first showed you K2 more than a year ago. It's a blend of dried leaves sprayed with a synthetic THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. It's fake pot with real risks.

"You don't know who the manufacturer is. They're not testing their lots to do quality assurance on it," explained David Gummin, M.D., the Medical Director of the Wisconsin Poison Control Center.

Since our investigation, lawmakers banned K2 in cities across the state, including Milwaukee, and now, thanks to Wisconsin Act 31, K2 is illegal across the state.

But when we took our hidden camera out to see if there are new synthetic marijuana products for sale in Milwaukee, guess what we found on the store shelves at the Villard Food Town on the north side?

K2, the one fake marijuana product that is absolutely illegal in the state.

"I understand that you're selling K2. You understand that that's against the law now. I don't know. Do you know it's against the law, K2? You got it on the shelf right here," said TODAY'S TMJ4's Rob Koebel to a store clerk.

Clerk: "I have no idea."

Koebel: "You had no idea it's against the law? It's been banned now in the state. You can get serious fines for that."

Clerk: "I don't know anything about it."

That's the one problem with the law.

The K2 law is so new, some store owners probably don't know about it.

The bigger problem? The minute one synthetic drug is outlawed, manufacturers are already concocting a new one.

"Some of these people in the name of profit have changed up the compound a little bit, changed the synthetic formulation of this liquid that they spray onto the plant material," said Will Taylor, a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

One of the new blends is Purple Magic, and sure enough, we had no trouble finding that fake marijuana product at the same store - not to mention how easy all of this stuff is to get over the internet.

Purple Magic is similar to K2. It's marketed as incense and labeled "not for human consumption," but kids are smoking it.

"Physically, they rev people up. So they rev up your heart rate, they rev up your nervous system, they can give you palpitations or chest pain," Dr. Gummin says.

This Purple Magic container even claims to be "DEA Compliant," but drug enforcement officers say that is misleading.

"Just because this product says it's not one of the 5 substances that's controlled by the dea that doesn't necessarily mean that just because it's not illegal yet that it's a safe product," Special Agent Taylor explains.

We showed the Purple Magic we found to some local moms, who were shocked that their kids can buy these kinds of products in local stores.

Our first mom says, "I don't think that that should be something teens or young people have available to them."

Our second mom adds, "I'm thinking this is a very bad thing. Pretend alcohol, pretend drugs, its only gonna lead to the real thing. So I'm very much against that."

While it's hard to know exactly what's in these products unless they are tested, the new bill definitely bans K2, and it also covers other products like Purple Magic if they contain synthetic cannabinoids.

Alderman Bob Donovan has been an outspoken supporter of the bans.

"We passed that K2 legislation which outlawed that kind of material. That as far as I'm concerned is simply used to prey on young people, get them hooked on, you know, that kind of garbage, and now obviously we're dealing with other things along those same lines, and it's frustrating to me, and even if it is outlawed--there's the problem of stores like Villard Food Town still selling it," Donovan says.

Koebel asked the manager about the product on his shelf.

Koebel: "Are you in charge?"

Manager: "What's, what's the problem?"

Koebel: "That K2. Well, we're concerned because that's been banned now. That's illegal. K2. It's a statewide ban.

Manager: "OK, take it off."

Koebel: "You're going to take that down now?

Manager: "Yeah."

Koebel: "OK, I appreciate it. Thank you sir."

Manager: "You're not professional grade."

Koebel: "Hey, that's an illegal substance that you're selling there. That's not professional, but it's your opportunity to if you would like to tell us why it was up there. (Koebel, pointing to clerk) OK, he's got my card. Call me."

It's a call that we still haven't received.

K2 off the shelves here at the Villard Food Town, but who knows if and where it will pop up again, maybe under a new name and package.

The new law also bans "bath salts" which teens use to get high, and the I-team did several stories about those as well.

You'll also have to pay up if you are caught with this stuff.

For a first time simple posession, you could face a fine up to $1,000.