On July 2, the Arkansas Board of Health adopted an emergency rule banning synthetic marijuana, known as K2. Governor Mike Beebe signed the rule, which is effective immediately. The Board of Health has 24 members that were present during the voice vote at an emergency meeting, with one member voting against it.
The emergency ruling will be in effect for 120 days or until it is permanently replaced with a new rule. The plan right now is that a law will be introduced and passed in the 2011 session, but this emergency ruling was brought about because Arkansas cities and counties have been taking it upon themselves to enact a K2 ban. The statewide approach simplifies the difficult task of each municipality being responsible for crafting and adopting local ordinances which may face legal challenges in court.
Dr Marvin Leibovich, a member of the state Board of Health, was the only member to vote against the emergency rule, because he felt that there is/was no emergency reason for adopting such a rule, citing that compared to 40,000 alcohol-related emergencies in the state per year, there have only been 26 possible K2 medical emergencies. Dr Leibovich does feel that some type of control is needed, but objected to this being an emergency circumstance, but rather a political one where pressure has been place on the Board to take action.
State Health Officer Paul Halverson assured reporters after the meeting that this emergency ruling was not attributed to any pressure being politically applied, but to recent knowledge gained through research. There is now a way to detect K2 and measure the extent of the substance via laboratory testing. Research has also shown that K2 is capable of causing medical problems like tremors and convulsions. With fair certainty, the potential harm that K2 could create warranted an action to the danger it presents.
What makes K2 and its variations such a threat is that there are no rules, restrictions or regulations on its sale and use like the ones in place for alcohol. The effects of alcohol are known whereas K2 affects are not, and with its availability being so easy, action needed to be taken to protect the public and especially our children until such can be determined.
In response to a question from State Rep. Donna Hutchinson, the attorney general has stated that it was within the Board’s authority to ban K2 with an emergency rule.
With this ruling, anyone caught in violation will receive a misdemeanor punishable with a fine up to $500 and up to one month in jail plus a civil penalty up to $1000.