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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Journalists have more work to do on 'fake pot' story

By Tom Warhover
February 19, 2010 | 5:55 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

It was a weird week for technology news. Or should I say health news?


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More likely, I should categorize the following as political news.

Smokin’ news.

Columbia by law is smoke-free in restaurants and bars.

We Missourian readers learned this week that we could light up again in Columbia restaurants by taking a pull on an “e-cigarette.”

It gives addicts a nicotine dose without an actual fire, or smoke, or even tobacco.

Or we could ingest the real thing at the new hookah lounge downtown.

The lounge’s primary business is tobacco, and so lighting those water pipes is just fine.

Then there's the story of fake — but legal pot.

Sometimes known as K2, fake pot continues to generate its own publicity through the continuing efforts of the General Assembly (and the journalists who cover it).

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has filed a bill to ban synthetic cannabinoids. I had never heard of such a thing before his campaign against the stuff, but apparently it can get a person stoned.

I know this because Jeremy Essig described the process of obtaining and smoking fake pot in a first person piece. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend the column. I found out what it cost, where I could get it, and what it would do (at least to Jeremy).

It left me feeling more informed than Sen. Schaefer’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Missourian story said Schaefer testified that adolescents were showing up at hospitals after K2 sessions, and that there were people driving while stoned on the legal substance.

I was skeptical. Where did Schaefer get his information?

Later, the Missourian ran a piece quoting our local police spokeswoman and an MU health official; neither had seen much evidence of K2 as a growing issue.

So is it a problem here? I’m not sure what to believe.

The story also quoted at length a scientist at a crime lab in Mission, Kan., who said K2 is bad stuff: more potent than marijuana and addictive, and resulting in hospitalizations in several cities across the country.

Convincing? Well…

It’s one guy, Jeremiah Morris, making these claims, from a lab I know nothing about. He may be the premier expert, for all I know.

But I don’t.

More journalism needs to be done. More debate in the General Assembly will be done.