A type of incense with marijuana-like properties is coming under scrutiny from Duluth police and city council officials.
The Duluth City Council passed a resolution Monday night asking the police department to report on the sales and use of products containing JWH-018.
The chemical compound supposedly mimics the chemical known as THC --- the psychotropic substance found in marijuana. Law enforcement officials say that the compound is sold as incense at local head shops, branded with names like Spice and K2, where it attracts customers looking for a legal alternative to marijuana.
"The reality is ... it's sold with a wink and a nod," said Brian Lukasavitz, coordinator of the Sixth Judicial District Drug Court, which includes the city of Duluth.
Lukasavitz said he first heard of JWH-018 about three months ago from participants in court-ordered drug programs.
"It caught us off guard," he said. "We weren't familiar with it."
Law enforcement officials say the chemical compound is more dangerous than marijuana and could lead to serious health problems, including heart attacks. Users have reported intense paranoia and psychotic episodes, Lukasavitz said.
Council member Todd Fedora said he plans to introduce an ordinance that would make it illegal to buy, sell, possess or manufacture the chemical compound. He says ten states have already taken that step, and he hopes that Minnesota will follow suit.
"But if the city of Duluth can jump on this and can get a four or five months lead on the state, I think that's a good thing," Fedora said.
The city council plans to discuss the issue and listen to a presentation from local law enforcement officials at an Aug. 16 meeting. Fedora said he hopes to introduce his ordinance at the same meeting, and expects that the council will move quickly to approve it.