You can’t outlaw something that hasn’t been invented yet, but Missouri lawmakers are working to stay one step ahead of fake pot, which keeps showing up behind convenience store counters.

Last legislative session, Missouri lawmakers banned K-2, a chemical substance that was an alternative to marijuana. Shortly after K-2 was pulled from shelves, K-3 became available.

Rep. Ward Franz (R-West Plains) sponsored last year’s K-2 bill; now he’s working on outlawing K-2. But he’s up against some pretty ingenuitive chemists. He says they’ve altered the chemical compound just enough to skirt the law, but it’s a tricky game to stay one step ahead of them without limiting other chemical compounds that are used for good.

He says Missouri’s law was among the front runners of other states addressing the problem and has some of the best language in the country — referring to a bill he co-sponsored (HB 1472) with Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) last session that banned K-2.

K-3 is showing up in convenience stores and smoke shops as Heaven Scent, BoCoMo and Spice — all of which are being marketed as aromatherapy products.

A chemistry professor at Clemson University in South Carolina invented the K-2 compound. He claims he never thought it would catch on as a commercial product. And he says K-2 and K-3 users are “idiots” because there’s no research on the substance’s effects.

Franz says users range from kids to adults in every demographic, and that “It came to my attention working with law enforcement.”

“At first we didn’t know a lot about it, but as time progressed, it became a need to make something happen for the public safety,” he says.

Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:20 min.]