DEA Bans Chemicals in "Fake Marijuana" Products

The D.E.A. exercised its emergency rule making authority today and banned five chemicals used in smokable herbal products it calls fake marijuana. Included are the chemicals in Spice, K-2, Blaze and Red X Dawn.

Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety.

The ban will be in effect for a year. The DEA says:

They are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

The text of the rule, as appears in the Federal Register, is here. [More...]

NORML responds:

“The popularity of these products is a predictable outgrowth of criminal marijuana prohibition. As prohibition is apt to do, it has driven the production of a commodity into the hands of unregulated, unknown dealers, driven up the potency of the commodity, and in doing so created a scenario where the consumer is faced with a potentially greater health risks than they would be had they simply had the legal choice to use the product they actually desired, in this case cannabis.

“Since most manufacturers of these products reside overseas and are not subject to federal laws and regulations, it is unlikely that the DEA’s action – as well as the similar bans in other states – will in any way halt the dissemination, use, or misuse of these products by the public. Most likely, the clamp down will likely only make the situation more dangerous – from both a legal standpoint and from a health standpoint – to the consumer.”

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    What a Joke (none / 0) (#1)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 08:14:55 PM EST
    Are we assume anything that gives Americans a buzz will be Scheduled I going forward.

    The DEA has to validate their existence ??

    Big choice, weed, or faux weed, same consequences, or worse for the fake weed depending where you live.  I seriously can't believe they are going to lock up fake weed dealers longer than cocaine dealers (schedule II).

    Not sure how it works, but is each state legislature going to have to criminalize the chemicals as well ?

    Career continuation for DEA employees (none / 0) (#2)
    by Yes2Truth on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 08:15:53 PM EST

    That, and possibly to protect some of their own
    cannabis smugglers/dealers.

    the DEA isn't run by, (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 10:46:25 PM EST
    or have scientists on its staff. i'd be curious to know what, if any scientifically valid justification there is for the ban. my guess is none. it seems odd that the DEA would have the authority, regarding drugs, that would seem rightly to be the purview of the FDA, an agency that actually employees real scientists on its staff.

    Really? (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 09:53:04 AM EST
    They have forensic chemists on staff - or are they not real scientists?

    Then there's this (from the link):

    Since 2009, DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products. At least 16 states have already taken action to control one or more of these chemicals. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to allow the DEA Administrator to place a substance temporarily in schedule I when it is necessary to avoid an imminent threat to the public safety. Emergency room physicians report that individuals that use these types of products experience serious side effects which include: convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting, and disorientation.

    If you look at the actual rule for the temporary reclassification of these substances on to Schedule I, you will see that the authority the Justice Department cites is  21 USC 811(b), which says

    The Attorney General shall, before initiating proceedings under subsection (a) of this section to control a drug or other substance or to remove a drug or other substance entirely from the schedules, and after gathering the necessary data, request from the Secretary a scientific and medical evaluation, and his recommendations, as to whether such drug or other substance should be so controlled or removed as a controlled substance. In making such evaluation and recommendations, the Secretary shall consider the factors listed in paragraphs (2), (3), (6), (7), and (8) of subsection (c) of this section and any scientific or medical considerations involved in paragraphs (1), (4), and (5) of such subsection.

    So they aren't just doing this on a whim - a scientific basis exists.


    care to make a small wager on that? (none / 0) (#7)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 11:06:09 AM EST
    So they aren't just doing this on a whim - a scientific basis exists.

    forensic science isn't research, as a general rule, so citing them is effectively citing nothing. were there any actual peer-reviewed studies supporting this banning, they'd have been prominently cited, they haven't been.

    again, banned on a whim and a law, not based on actual science.


    It's banned (none / 0) (#9)
    by lilburro on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 11:11:37 AM EST
    because there is no science on the subject yet.  Supposedly they are going to do research to see if it should be permanently illegal or not.  This is "just temporary."

    Yes (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 11:51:53 AM EST
    And since people like, oh, medical professionals, have eyewitness accounts about their effects and what they actually do to human beings, experts are going to further study them.

    Oh, and the press release also says HHS AND DEA will be studying them - so for those who don't think forensic chemists are real scientists, that should cover it.


    From the proposed rule (none / 0) (#11)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 11:56:44 AM EST
    What, If Any, Risk There Is to the Public Health

    Health warnings have been issued by numerous state and local public health departments and poison control centers describing the adverse health effects associated with these synthetic cannabinoids and their related products, including agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia (fast, racing heartbeat), elevated blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, and non-responsiveness.

    Smoking these synthetic cannabinoids for the purpose of achieving intoxication and experiencing the psychoactive effects has been identified as a reason for emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers. In a fact sheet by the National Drug Court Institute, the problem of synthetic cannabinoid abuse is described as "significant and disturbing." This is supported by information that was communicated to DEA from one of the major private toxicology laboratories. Based on laboratory findings from drug screens for the period of July 2010 through November 2010, over 3,700 specimens tested positive for either JWH-018 or JWH-073. They also indicated that they were finding 30-35% positivity for specimens submitted by juvenile probation departments.

    Case reports describe psychotic episodes, withdrawal, and dependence associated with use of these synthetic cannabinoids, similar to syndromes
    observed in marijuana abuse. In addition, based on law enforcement encounters reported directly to DEA, when responding to incidents involving individuals who have reportedly smoked these synthetic cannabinoids, first responders report that these individuals have suffered from intense hallucinations. Moreover, emergency department physicians and toxicologists have reported the adverse health effects associated with smoking herbal incense products laced with these substances.

    I'm curious (none / 0) (#12)
    by lilburro on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 12:19:34 PM EST
    as to how they're really going to be able to regulate this.  There are a lot of synthetic cannabinoids out there.  IIRC, the scientist who "discovered" Spice or JWH-018 also discovered at least 20 other cannabinoids.  This is just a temporary ruling though...they'll probably come up with something that addresses that issue in the next year.  I know some business owners are suing for the right to continue selling the substances (Salt Lake Tribune).

    They (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 12:40:16 PM EST
    will always be behind the 8-ball, because anytime you tell someone they can't do something or can't have something, they find a way around it.  But these chemicals sound like some pretty nasty things.

    Stoooooopid (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 08:19:51 AM EST
    I guess we don't have enough people in jails that we can't afford to run.  My daughter says that all of her friends who have to be drug tested do the fake stuff.  So I'm sure that the market for the legal stuff will simply blow away....NOT

    One of the things with Spice/k2 (none / 0) (#6)
    by lilburro on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 10:10:29 AM EST
    is that it's basically chemical sprayed on some unknown sh*t.  So the fact that it's unregulated is a problem.  And I do know people (stoners) who have gotten sick from it.

    Spice makes marijuana look good.  Hopefully this will help MJ legalization forward.

    don't bet the rent money on it. (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 11:08:45 AM EST
    Hopefully this will help MJ legalization forward.

    if anything, it will be cited as another reason to further harden the laws against pot.