I'm high on fake pot right now.
When I first wrote that sentence, I was. My plan was to sample K2 — a substance that legislators say mimics the effects of marijuana — and write about the experience in real time.
Unfortunately, the high provided by the "fake pot" was quite real, restricting my movements to laying in an easy chair and watching television.
I first became aware of the pot substitute from an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Feb. 4. On the same day, a bill to make K2 and similar products illegal — sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia — was read for the second time on the Senate floor.
Before I go any further, I must admit I don't care for marijuana. My limited encounters with the drug have produced feelings of alienation and a strong desire for solitude and sleep. The issue of marijuana's legality is not the point of this piece; I'm just offering my own experiences.
That said, my curiosity for this new, legal substance outweighed my distaste for the drug's effects. How could a substance that mimics the effects of marijuana be available and how could I have never heard about it?
Around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon, I decided to obtain herbal incense — the technical name for fake pot — and report on its effects. I feel it necessary to note this experiment was not suggested nor approved by an editor or any other individual connected to MU. I am quite capable of thinking up stupid ideas on my own.
At 3:30 p.m. I set out to obtain K2, or a similar substance. I live in a liberal, college town filled with dirty hippies, I thought, how hard could it be to find this currently legal pot substitute?
I began my search at the Peace Nook on Broadway, a name that to me suggested a head shop. Unfortunately, the Peace Nook did not stock herbal incense, though the helpful clerk was nice enough to alert me to two Columbia businesses that did — Dreams Smoke Shop and Bocomo Bay.
Dreams was my next stop, for the simple reason it was within walking distance of downtown. I identified myself as a reporter interested in information on K2 and was immediately met with strong resistance.
"Yeah, I know what K2 is, but we don't have it right now," the clerk said.
"Do you know when you will have more," I asked.
"Nope, it just depends on when she comes," he said.
"So she," (an odd term in reference to a business supplier) "doesn't deliver K2 on a specific day," I asked.
"Nope, it depends on when she comes," the clerk responded.
I asked if the clerk knew where I might go to obtain K2 and his response was equally weird.
"I know some places, but I doubt they have any," he said. "I think the town is all out."
Somewhat defeated and confused by his answers, I called Bocomo Bay to check their supply. The person who answered the phone informed me that they carried many varieties of herbal incense and had them in stock.
Asked about the town currently being out of the substance, the employee informed me that not only did they have it, but they planned on carrying quite a robust stock.
Upon entering Bocomo Bay and asking for K2, the clerk asked if I had used it before. When I said no, the clerk suggested that I start with either Pink or Summit and work my way up to using the other two varieties.
I don't know how much marijuana costs, but three grams of K2 cost $30. As this experiment was not sanctioned, I will not be reimbursed.
In what I initially assumed was a head shop upsell, the clerk asked me if I had an incense burner. I'm not going into debt any further for this story, I thought, especially since the alleged high comes from smoking, not burning the K2.
"I already have a burner," I falsely informed the clerk in an attempt to end his sales pitch.
"No, with this you need a really small burner," the clerk said while producing a box of thin metal pipes.
For those who have not been to a "smoke shop," there are a number of words customers are not to use. Referring to a "bong," for example, will result in immediate expulsion from the shop. The proper term is tobacco pipe.
With that in mind, however, I didn't see how this pipe could be classified as anything but a device for ingesting smoke. The thin metal pipe — also called a "one-hitter" — had a large opening at one end and a much smaller one at the other. It would be impossible to use the device to simply burn incense without drawing smoke in off the smaller end — a practice the K2 label warns against.
I ended up purchasing the "burner," too. I'm completely incompetent at rolling a joint.
Spending $36.56 on the K2 and pipe, I headed home assured that I had just wasted money. How could a substance that mimicked marijuana possibly be put on a debit card? He should have tried to sell me X-ray glasses as well.
Keeping in mind the clerk's warning to start slow, I filled the pipe twice and smoked it. Not more than 10 minutes later, my skepticism had faded into a haze of warmth and lethargy.
Unable (or perhaps unwilling) to begin my writing assignment, I instead grabbed a notebook to record the effects. They included:
- A tingle in my jaw
- Feelings of self-doubt (I should note that these are frequently present)
- A heightened awareness of music
- Alternating feelings of nausea and hunger
- Enjoyment while watching "Celebrity Rehab"
I'm still amazed I was able to watch 45 minutes of "Celebrity Rehab," a show I generally find distasteful. With the exception of a trip to the kitchen to make a quesadilla and a phone call from my wife, the majority of my high was spent watching "Celebrity Rehab," "Law and Order" and a show I had never heard of, "Criminal Minds." In retrospect, an embarrassingly stereotypical way to spend an afternoon.
The call from my wife, who seemed to find my experiment either amusing or annoying, produced another effect of the K2, the inability to remember words. On multiple occasions, I was unable to produce the word I was looking for, instead ending sentences with "Oh, you know what I mean."
My wife asked what K2 was, a question I was unable to answer. No ingredient list adorns the back of the package, something the Post-Dispatch article pointed out. Also fascinating, the Post-Dispatch reported a supplier of K2 to some vendors in St. Louis refused to say where he obtains the product. Perhaps the "mystery she" the clerk at Dreams spoke of?
A mysterious woman selling an unspecified substance, a perfect character for a Fleetwood Mac song.
The fate of this woman and her gold dust is now in the hands of Missouri's General Assembly, a decision I care to comment neither for nor against.
The potency of her gold dust, however, is most certainly not a mirage.
Jeremy Essig, a graduate student at MU, has covered state government for the Missourian since August of 2009. He is currently serving as an assistant statehouse editor for the Missouri Press Association. Jeremy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.