Texas Prisons Struggle To Keep K2 Under Control

Synthetic marijuana is popular inTexas prisons because it’s hard to detect, and the profits are high for those who smuggle it in.

By Lila Weatherly & Alain StephensJuly 11, 2017 11:00 am

A type of synthetic marijuana that is undetectable on standard drug tests is quickly becoming the most popular form of contraband in Texas prisons.

Mike Ward, Austin Bureau Chief for the Houston Chronicle, says that K2, also known as kush or spice, is also growing in popularity outside prison, but the drug has many qualities that make it popular with inmates.

“It’s prevalent inside prisons because it’s prevalent outside prisons,” Ward says. “And in some respects, it’s argued that it may be the perfect drug for prison consumption, because it doesn’t show up on the drug test that they randomly give the inmates.”

Dealers may also be angling to get the drug into prisons because profit levels are much higher on the inside.

“There is a large markup between the street price that you can buy K2 for and the price it sells for inside prison,” Ward says. “It’s about $20 or so, and it can sell for ten times that or more inside the prison.”

Ward says that, according to investigators, staff play a part in bringing K2 into prisons. But visitors seem to be culprits, too, smuggling the drug in some pretty odd ways.

“In recent weeks they have confiscated K2 that was hidden inside a baby’s diaper,” Ward says. “They got some off a grandmother who was going in to visit her grandson at a unit in East Texas.”

The synthetic marijuana not only fails to show up on standard facility drug tests, but often changes in chemical makeup, as well. Yet prison officers are finding ways to crack down on the clandestine drug. As Ward assures, “They’re all over this.”

“They are going in with targeted enforcement campaigns on visitation days to search people who are coming into prisons to do visits, and they’ve made quite a number of arrests so far,” he says. “They’re also doing a number of the more expensive drug tests that they didn’t normally do, that do detect K2.”

What makes the drug particularly threatening is the varied responses and behaviors it elicits from users, from physical violence to near sedation.

“One of the most dangerous aspects of K2 is that, in some respects, it’s like PCP was a number of years ago,” Ward says. “It is uncontrollable hallucinations and other side effects, that makes it particularly dangerous in a correctional setting.”

There have been no reported deaths attributed to K2, though toxicology reports may not have included checks the synthetic drug.