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Fake Reefer Madness: Kansas lawmakers' paranoid rush to ban synthetic marijuana



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One of the KBA's beneficiaries is a five-minute drive from McAnulla's Sacred Journey store. Over the last two years, Lawrence-based Pinnacle Technology has received $750,000 from the KBA to help fund its work with animals, researching sensors in the brain and chemical activity to develop treatments for depression, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease and seizures.

"Our business revenue grew 300 percent in the last year, and we're expecting to do even more this year," says Donna Johnson, Pinnacle's president, adding that the KBA was "invaluable for us to develop as a company." In the last 10 years, Johnson says, "there's been a lot more interest in researching the brain, and neuro research has been growing as a field. We know a lot about the rest of the body, but compared to that, we still don't know much about how the brain works."

Jon Sloan and Natalie McAnulla thought they were on the right side of the law, even after the hearing in Topeka.

Business was still good, but both store owners were preparing to take K2 off the shelves in the event of a ban. They watched the progress of the legislation, and McAnulla's attorney, Knox, had advised her to return any remaining unsold product if it looked as if the governor was about to sign the law.

Sloan assumed that the police would leave him alone until that day came. But on Thursday, February 4 — before Gov. Mark Parkinson had signed the bill into law — federal agents burst through the door of his shop with guns drawn.

Sloan says one of the officers told him: "We're here for the K2." Another shut off the store's security cameras.

When they'd boxed up everything in the shop, they took Sloan to a room on the second floor and took each of the store's 12 employees aside for private questioning.

A similar scene was playing out at Sacred Journey.

Agents there flashed a warrant that said, "suspicion of the sale of illegal drugs." They boxed up all the still-legal product, along with a laptop, computer files, a store safe, sales reports from the last two years, baggies, scales and ethnobotanicals — plants used for medicinal or spiritual purposes, often associated with shamans or Amazonian tribes. McAnulla was in New York City at the time.

"One of my employees was at the police station and called me to let me know the manager was being interrogated and she was next," McAnulla says. "She told me no one was under arrest, and that they'd said all they wanted to do was ask questions. At the time, they didn't think to ask for legal counsel. No one thought we were doing anything criminal."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration coordinated the day's raids, with assistance from Lawrence police and Johnson County Sheriff officers. FDA spokesman Tom Gasparoli declined to say what the agency was looking for, telling The Pitch that he could not "publicly comment on criminal investigations."

Later that day, Jefferson County prosecutors charged Sloan with eight felonies: seven for the unlawful cultivation or distribution of a controlled substance and one for possessing drug paraphernalia, which prosecutors described as a "plastic jug."

The controlled substances were trace amounts of chemicals that could be used to create psychoactive drugs; in this case, they came in the form of powders, flowers and bark among Sloan's stock of ethnobotanicals. In one count, prosecutors charged Sloan with possessing "Mescaline as contained in Trichocereus Cacti." Trichocereus cacti is the scientific name for what's commonly known as the San Pedro cactus, which is legal to own in the United States and is commonly stocked in the garden sections of big-box stores such as Lowe's or Home Depot. It is illegal to own if law-enforcement officers believe that you plan to chop it up and boil it down to extract and use the mescaline. Sloan's financial accounts also were frozen, including his 6-year-old son's savings account.

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