A growing number of North Texas cities is rushing to pass ordinances to limit or ban the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana products as concerns mount over health and safety issues.
The products are often sold under the names K2, K2 Summit, Sex and Spice.
K2, which is sold in gas stations, smoke shops and over the Internet, is an herbal product sprayed with chemical compounds that, when smoked, produces "highs" similar to marijuana. But critics say it can also cause vomiting, hallucinations and other effects.
This week, city councils in Cleburne, Watauga, Frisco and Plano adopted ordinances prohibiting the sale and possession of K2 and the chemicals associated with it.
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Earlier, Mansfield became the first city in Texas to prohibit K2 sales to people younger than 21and to prohibit the sale of "smoking devices" such as hookahs, bongs and water pipes within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, homes and day-care facilities.
Fines for the sale or possession of K2 vary from $500 in Cleburne and Plano to $2,000 in Watauga.
Fort Worth is not considering a K2 ban, but Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is proposing an ordinance that would ban K2, salvia -- another product -- and paraphernalia used to smoke synthetic marijuana, according to a news release.
The ordinance will be discussed Monday during the Dallas City Council's public safety committee meeting. If passed, it would become a class C misdemeanor to sell or possess K2 with a fine up to $2,000.
"You can find these items in slick packaging right on the shelves in gas stations and head shops or on the Internet," said Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, chairman of the committee.
"This loophole is a trap for kids," he said. "It just opens the door for illegal drug use later."
In Plano, where the council voted to ban K2 sales to everyone, police anticipate brisk sales before the law takes effect Monday, spokesman Rick McDonald said.
"We have officers visiting the stores. We are asking for voluntary compliance. We will start our enforcement at 8 a.m. Monday," McDonald said.
McDonald said there have not been serious incidents in Plano involving people smoking K2, but he said he worries about what could happen if the product is not regulated.
"Once it starts affecting public safety, you do have to put some kind of regulation on that," McDonald said.
Cleburne police have seen the effects while answering several calls. In May, four people from an apartment complex were taken to hospitals because they were vomiting and unresponsive.
In another incident, a man thought he was in the Whataburger drive-through, but he was parked behind the manager's car instead.
A statewide law banning K2 would be a welcome relief for law enforcement agencies, McDonald said.
K2 is illegal in several European countries, but it is legal in much of the United States, according to the North Texas Poison Center.
So far, eight states including Kansas and Missouri, along with the Army, have banned K2.
The Drug Enforcement Agency has listed K2 as a drug of concern.
State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, has said she will introduce a bill in the next legislative session for a statewide K2 ban.
"We've got to get a handle on this in the next Legislature," McDonald said.
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696