DEA Criminalizes Synthetic Marijuana Products Sold Over The Counter - New Ban Treats 'Fake Pot' Products Like Heroin Under Federal Law

Thursday, 03 March 2011

norml.orgWashington, DC: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) this week exercised its 'emergency scheduling authority' to criminally prohibit the possession and sale of chemical agents contained in so-called 'fake' herbal marijuana products, commonly sold over the counter under the brand names 'K2' and 'Spice.' The agency had initially announced its intent to outlaw the chemicals last November.

The specific compounds prohibited under the new DEA ban are: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. Each of these compounds is now placed in the same category as heroin under federal law.

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

The agency says that the federal ban will remain in effect for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services "further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled."

The chemicals in question are synthetic cannabinoid agonists, which are added to otherwise inert herbal products. Once ingested, they interact with endogenous cannabinoid receptors to elicit certain physical and euphoric responses that are similar to some of the effects of marijuana.

Commenting on the new ban, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "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, and artificially driven up the potency of the commodity – thus exponentially increasing the potential health risks to the consumer."

He continued: "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. The clamp down will likely only make the situation more dangerous – from both a legal standpoint and from a health standpoint – to the consumer."

NORML takes no official position regarding the use or regulation of these synthetic products.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500, or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.