The packaging is brightly colored, emblazoned with a “K” for “Kryptonite” radiating a green glow.
Flavors include “Fuzzy Wuzzy,” “Juicy Fruit,” “Kottonmouf King,” “Kronik,” “Purple Haze,” “StrawVery,” “Tigers Blood” and “Water Mellow.”
Prices range from $3.99 to $12.99 per gram.
Each package states, “This product is not intended to be taken internally or externally by any mammal on planet earth. Not for human consumption.”
However, nowhere on the package does it state what exactly the product is. It’s marketed as herbal incense, but many youths and adults are smoking it instead — a trend that’s been on the rise since the mid-2000s.
Kryptonite’s website, www.herbz4less.com, (motto: “Heighten your inSENSES”) claims the product is herbal incense. However, the website blasts the song “Kryptonite (I’m On It)” by Purple Ribbon All-Stars. The hip hop song boasts: “I be on it all night, man, I be on it … on that Kryptonite, stay so high we might fly away … I be on that Kryptonite …” amid other lyrics unsuitable for print.
Anyone wishing to purchase Kryptonite online must be 18 or older, but the product is available at gas stations and party stories throughout Montcalm County and surrounding areas with no age limit.
Mr. Nice Guy?
A yet-to-be-apprehended thief broke into the Handy Market in Greenville on Jan. 11, stealing packages of Kryptonite, along with energy pills. An employee at Handy Market told The Daily News he only sells the product to those 18 and older. However, that’s not a requirement.
Central Michigan Enforcement Team (CMET) Det. Lt. Steve Rau, who works out of the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post, said the product is very similar to K2 Spice, which was outlawed in Michigan in October 2010 after 352 cases of illness involving K2 Spice were reported to the Poison Control Center nationally that year.
An 18-year-old male from Mid Michigan died in December 2011 after smoking a K2 blend called “Mr. Nice Guy.” The Michigan Regional Poison Control Center received more than 200 calls last year regarding medical issues related to exposure to K2. More than half of the cases reported moderate to major health effects, including irregular heartbeat, stroke and multiple seizures.
“They just have different names for it,” said Rau of the new versions of K2. “They kind of retooled the formula, so to speak, and they came out with these other versions which are being billed as incense. The new stuff has the same problems as the old. It makes you sick and have hallucinations and things of that nature. We’ve had reports of kids who have gone to the hospital sick or parents who called and found it in their kid’s room and were concerned about it.
“This is an in-between drug,” he added. “If someone is using cocaine and marijuana and this isn’t readily available, they run out to the gas station and buy this stuff.”
Rau said he and his colleagues are working with local prosecutors and lab technicians to investigate the substance further.
“Whenever someone is trying to imitate a controlled substance, it is always a concern for law enforcement,” said Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marketing labels often make unverified claims that K2 Spice products contain up to 3 grams of a natural psychoactive (mind-altering) material taken from a variety of plants. While K2 Spice products do contain dried plant material, chemical analysis of seized mixtures have revealed the presence of synthetic cannabinoid compounds, such as JWH-018 and HU-210.
These compounds bind to the same cannabinoid receptors in the human body as THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. Some of the compounds bind even more strongly to human receptors, which could lead to a much more powerful and unpredictable effect, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Currently, no major studies have been done on the affects of smoking herbal incense. However, a variety of mood and perceptual effects have been described and patients who have been taken to Poison Control Centers have reported symptoms including rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations.
Attractive and toxic
Lynn Cooper, coalition coordinator of Drug Free Montcalm, said the tobacco industry has been marketing products to young people since the 1970s by introducing characters such as Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man and even using the Flintstones in advertising.
“Today the more subtle ploy is to use similar packaging for products such as Snus, K2 Spice, dissolvables and little cigars that look like mint, candy or gum containers,” Cooper said. “They use the same shape and colors as the familiar candy brands. They even have flavored these emerging products so that they seem more like candy, but in fact some contain levels of nicotine. Concerns are the toxicity and attractiveness to underage children.”
Kim Singh, a health officer with the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, said the use of any synthetic drug by teens is concerning. She noted one of the priority areas identified by the recently created Healthy Montcalm Initiative is to reduce substance abuse in teens and adults.
“There can be serious health issues associated with the use of synthetic drugs,” Singh said. “I think it is important to convey to youth that the use of this product is not safe.”
John Kroneck of Drug Free Montcalm and Cherry Street Health Services said for a drug to become illegal, it must be placed on a formal list of illegal drugs, which entails very specific action by government officials.
“Once a drug is illegal, through chemistry, the components/compounds of an illegal drug may be altered,” Kroneck said. “Once altered, it is not the illegal drug but something that acts similar to an illegal drug — a synthetic drug. Part of the problem with synthetic drugs is that they have been chemically altered and this adulteration can create unexpected consequences.”
For now, Kryptonite and other similar herbal incenses remain legal and for sale throughout Montcalm County and the rest of Michigan.
A self-described “old hippie” who often shops at the Handy Market in Greenville told The Daily News he tried smoking herbal incense once when a young man offered him some. He wasn’t impressed and said he’ll stick with regular marijuana.
“It tasted terrible,” he said. “I think it’s craziness. Man, what is the matter with people?”