Prisons around the country face a growing K2 problem

Connecticut saw first-hand last month, how dangerous K2 and other forms of “synthetic marijuana” can be, when there more than 100 overdoses in the span of two days, centered around the New Haven Green.

Part of the danger is that “synthetic marijuana” is not marijuana – in fact, for any given batch, users can’t reasonably be certain what the chemicals are that have been sprayed on plant matter. That difference from actual marijuana, which has known chemical compounds and a characteristic smell, have made it a near-perfect drug of choice to smuggle into prisons, and the number of prisoner drug overdoses has skyrocketed.

“These are drugs that wouldn't have a characteristic odor or smell, many prisons use drug detection canines or other types of technology and these psychoactive substances wouldn't necessarily be detected,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Patrick Trainor.

Last year alone, Arkansas, Texas, Florida and North Carolina all reported overdose outbreaks linked to K2. In Florida, it has been blamed for an over 400 percent increase in inmate deaths. In Pennsylvania, 33 inmates and over 50 prison staffers have been hospitalized as well.

“This is a phenomenon all over the country, and I think what really changed the game here is having it be the liquid which is basically undetectable it makes it a game changer,” said John Wetzel from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

To counter K2 smuggling, Pennsylvania prisons have temporarily banned all mail, package deliveries and paperback books. Prison officials in other jurisdictions are also considering drone detection equipment, high-tech body scanners, and even instituting lifetime bans for visitors who are caught trying to sneak drugs in.