After three years of community outreach and advocacy, the Partnership for a Drug-Free Community coalition succeeded in persuading the Alabama Legislature to make salvia divinorum and K2 illegal. On July 1, the two substances that have marijuana-like effects on those who smoke them will no longer be legal to sell or purchase, thanks to a bill passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed by Gov. Bob Riley.
“We worked so hard to get this passed, and then it was, 24-0 unanimously,” said Deborah Soule, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug Free Community in Huntsville, Ala. “Because of the education, because everyone worked together, this all came together. It’s a tale of a community that worked together and passed something.”
The coalition was able to then get officials throughout the state interested in these controversial substances. Soule said her strategy was explaining the research the prevention field has about salvia and K2 to people in the local and state level, even speaking to the Department of Agriculture.
Shop owners that sell the substances email Soule often because they didn’t want to lose business, asking her ‘Why are we doing this?’ The 23-year prevention advocate veteran says while she regrets some could lose money with this ban, Alabama youth are more important.
“We’re just trying to keep our kids healthy,” she said. Both substances have been particularly problematic for teens, Soule said, citing phone calls from parents concerned about the product.
When smoked, salvia provides users with a hallucinogenic high. Legal herbs containing K2 - or synthetic marijuana - will also become illegal under the same bill. K2 is a chemical spray that mimics the effects of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. It appeared in the U.S. a year ago and it’s seen as the new “legal” high. The cannabis-like chemicals appear on the Drug Enforcement Administration web site as a “drug and chemical of concern.”
A U.S. scientist created the drug mimicking marijuana in 1995 to help chemo therapy patients get back their appetite, but unlike marijuana, testing in humans has never been done. Since the drug is not federally regulated, it dodges traditional drug tests.
Kansas was the first state to outlaw herbal incense blends like K2 and Alabama is the second. Six other states are close: Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Illinois. Alabama is the 17th state to ban salvia.
The recently passed Alabama legislation means possession of the products will become a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, and selling the products will be a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison.