DEA bans Spice, other ‘fake pot' products
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control five chemicals — JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47497, and cannabicyclohexanol — that are used to make “fake pot” products.
Except as authorized by law, this action will make possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year while the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals and products should be permanently controlled. “That means for Spice or K2 that any retailer or anyone that is found distributing it or selling it, then it will be a federal crime,” Special Agent Ramona Sanchez, the Phoenix area public information officer, told the Yuma Sun.
“We are giving retailers a notice to get rid of their inventory and take the proper steps to get this off the shelves so that it does not potentially endanger the public. Unfortunately, it has been legal in the past, and I think people will start to see that this is not what they think it is. A lot of people think it is a fake high and legal, and therefore may not be that dangerous.”
A notice of intent to temporarily control was published in the Federal Register Nov. 24 to alert the public to this action. After no fewer than 30 days, the DEA will publish in the Federal Register a final rule to temporarily control these chemicals for at least 12 months with the possibility of a six-month extension.
They will be designated as Schedule 1 substances, the most restrictive category, which is reserved for unsafe, highly abused substances with no medical usage.
“A Schedule 1 substance is the highest or most restrictive category,” Sanchez said.
That would put designer drugs like Spice and K2 on par with marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Anyone in Yuma caught with the substance after the ban takes effect will be arrested and charged with a felony, Sanchez said.
“What this means for the state of Arizona (is) if anyone (is) caught in possession or selling any of these chemicals it will be a federal violation.”
Over the past year, smokable herbal blends marketed as being legal and providing a marijuana-like high have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, the DEA reported.
Users of the substance previously told the Yuma Sun they liked to use it because they could legally get high and not have to worry about failing a drug test.
These products consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet.
These chemicals, however, have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process, Sanchez said.
“These are synthetic cannabinoids and they were never intended for human consumption. The effect on people is uncertain and unknown. The production is not monitored for quality control or potential chemical levels. They may also contain other unknown chemicals that can compound the effect altogether.”
Brands such as Spice, K2, Blaze and Red X Dawn are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose, the DEA reported.
Since 2009, the DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products.
“There have been over 2,000 calls that have been made to U.S. poison centers across the nation,” Sanchez said.
“The DEA is responding to public concern, and we are taking action to protect the public.”
The DEA will use the ban to study the chemicals to find if they are safe for human consumption, or if they should be made permanently illegal, Sanchez said.
“It is a very lengthy and expensive process. A lot will take place in this year. The ban will give the DEA time to research and find out if there is any need to permanently make it a Schedule 1 substance.”
The DEA is taking the matter seriously, Sanchez said.
“Until the risks associated with ingesting these products and chemicals can be studied and understood, there is no place for them on the shelves of any legitimate business and much less in the hands of teens or whomever.”
The companies that stand to lose business over the ban are already marketing other chemicals not banned by the DEA, but those chemicals are also being observed by the DEA, Sanchez said.
“We will study them as they come up on our radar.”
The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to allow the DEA administrator to emergency schedule an abused, harmful, non-medical substance in order to avoid an imminent public health crisis while the formal rule-making procedures described in the CSA are being conducted.
“The American public looks to the DEA to protect its children and communities from those who would exploit them for their own gain,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.
“Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that ‘fake pot' is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs, but that is not the case. Today's action will call further attention to the risks of ingesting unknown compounds and will hopefully take away any incentive to try these products.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.