Fort Worth K2 center shut down because of code violations

FORT WORTH -- A K2 manufacturing and distribution center has been shut down -- at least temporarily -- after city officials found that the building where it is housed violated city and fire codes.

The K2 lab was discovered Monday morning when a code compliance officer was investigating a complaint at the building in the 100 block of North Beach Street, said Engineer Timothy Hardeman, a Fire Department spokesman.

A firetruck and hazardous-material squad were sent to do testing at the building after the officer also noticed a strong odor, Hardeman said. While no fire hazards were found, Hardeman said multiple code violations were noted, including that "the interior of the business had not been completed, and owners couldn't produce a certificate of occupancy."

"Our commercial building inspector was able to issue a stop-work order based on the fire code violations and lack of a certificate of occupancy," Hardeman said.

Fort Worth is among several North Texas cities considering measures to limit or ban K2, an herbal product sprayed with chemical compounds. When smoked, K2 produces highs similar to marijuana. But the chemical compounds can make it more potent, and side effects can include hallucinations.

On Tuesday, a City Council committee was told that the Police Department had found only three mentions of K2 during a search of its reports for the first nine months of 2010. The council was also briefed on ordinances banning K2 in other cities, including Mansfield.

Deputy City Attorney Gerald Pruitt said the inspection of the K2 factory found that workers were treating the product with acetone, a highly flammable solvent.

"The most dangerous part of it may be making it," Pruitt said.

About 20 employees had been working inside the lab when city officials arrived Monday, said Lt. Paul Henderson, a police spokesman. The herbal product being used to make the K2 was a mixture of catnip and potpourri, he said.

"From what we discovered in the lab, a broad estimate is it may carry a street value of up to $4 million depending on how it was being packaged and distributed," he said.

Sgt. Chad Mahaffey, a police spokesman, said the department is studying the K2 issue from a broad law enforcement perspective.

"Our concern is the health and safety to our residents and citizens," he said. "We are working closely with city leaders and state legislators to find the right solution for the K2 challenge. We want to make sure we get it right."

Staff writer Mike Lee contributed to this report.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655