Woman fights to strengthen state synthetic drug laws in her son’s memory

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids woman said something has got to change with the state’s synthetic drug laws.

It’s a message she pushing, but it’s one that comes with a broken heart. Gwen Meek said her son’s use of K2 led him to hang himself this past summer.

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, is often sold in legal retail outlets as “herbal incense” or “potpourri,” according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Distributors spray chemicals onto plant material and users get a high from it. It poses a lot of risks, including suicidal thoughts.

The Meek family only has 35 years of memories of Jerrald, the man they called son and brother. The last few years of his life were very tough.

“A lot of his problems stem from going to Afghanistan three times in four years,” Gwen Meek said.

His mother said guilt consumed the Army veteran for surviving combat when others did not. She said he struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The third time he came back, his wife said he was not right. He was not right at all. And that’s when he started using K2,” Gwen Meek said.

Gwen said the K2 increased her son’s depression. After years of using, sometimes several times a day, Jerrald committed suicide. Gwen found him in the family home.

“I already knew he was gone, He was cold,” Gwen Meek said.

“As soon as I lost him, I am like ‘I am not going to lose my son for nothing,’” she added.

The grieving mother started making calls to people like state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. She wants a law making it illegal to use and sell all synthetic drugs. Sen. Hogg said that could be difficult, especially when the manufacturers of synthetic drugs often change the formula.

“Our criminal laws have to be specific. Our criminal laws have to tell people here is what is prohibited, because if it’s too vague the courts are going to say we can’t enforce that anyway,” he said.

The senator has ideas of how to help. He wants to look at who could be held responsible, examining liability for those who make and distribute the products.

“Why are they selling it? Because they think they can make money. Well, if they think they are going to lose a lot of money or be in danger of losing a lot of money that might be an effective deterrent on those things that we can’t pinpoint in the criminal laws,” Sen. Hogg said.

Gwen knows it’s a tough battle, but in her son’s memory she’s ready for the fight.

“It’s just how we can honor him and help other families too,” Gwen Meek said.

Iowa’s law currently bans specific formulas and chemicals of synthetic drugs.

Sen. Hogg said lawmakers continuously update that list as they learn of formulas that manufacturers have altered.

The senator added that he believes lawmakers can pass something to respond to Gwen’s concerns this legislative session.

Gwen has also worked with other legislators from the Cedar Rapids area in her effort to create change.