LINCOLN — Possession of synthetic marijuana would be punished with prison time under a legislative bill drafted by Attorney General Jon Bruning.
The attorney general announced Tuesday that another crackdown on the drug commonly called K2 will be part of his 2014 legislative package of four bills. The Nebraska Legislature opens its 60-day session today.
Lawmakers have twice outlawed K2 in recent years, but chemists tweak the formula to make new, legal versions. Iowa's K2 ban has been circumvented in a similar fashion.
Bruning said a bill being drafted by his office will try a broader “catch-all” approach. The key will be crafting legislation that isn't unconstitutionally broad.
“Nobody wants to see another life lost to the drug, not anywhere,” Bruning said.
In October, 18-year-old Billy Tucker of Greenwood, Neb., became the first Nebraskan to die of a synthetic marijuana overdose. He took the drug at a party before falling asleep at a friend's house in Waverly. He never awoke.
His father, Steve Tucker, who attended Tuesday's announcement, said trying to stay ahead of K2 laboratories is a challenge that must be overcome.
“States continue to play whack-a-mole with the drug dealers in a losing battle,” Tucker said.
Bruning said the 2014 bill also would make possession of the drug a felony. K2 currently is regarded like marijuana, in which possession of small quantities is punished by a fine.
State Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala will introduce the bill.
Synthetic marijuana is widely available on the Internet, at head shops and at convenience stores. The U.S. Justice Department reports nearly 3,000 formulations of the drug.
The drug promises a high, but some users experience panic attacks, hallucinations, high blood pressure and seizures. Some users have taken their own lives while on the drug.
Tyler Smith, 18, of Bellevue killed himself in 2012 after using synthetic marijuana. Last year, the Legislature passed a bill named in his honor outlawing the newest generation of synthetic drugs.
Other bills in the attorney general's package will target:
» Patent trolls. Carried by Sen. Health Mello of Omaha, the bill would seek to protect small-business owners and consumers from frivolous patent infringement claims.
» Repeat sex offenders and stalkers. Carried by Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, the bill would create separate penalties for stalking and harassment, which are now the same offense. It also would allow an offender's sex assaults from other states to be used as evidence in Nebraska prosecutions.
» Child pornography. Carried by Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha, the bill would make it illegal to solicit child pornography as well as to possess it.