The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today, as anticipated, 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 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 (DHHS) “further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.”
The chemicals in question are synthetic cannabinoid agonists. Once ingested, they interact with endogenous cannabinoid receptors to elicit certain physical and euphoric effects associated with the ingestion of marijuana. They are added to inert herbs to temporarily induce euphoria in the user.
Though NORML takes no official position regarding the use or regulation of these synthetic products, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano issued the following statement:
“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.”