NORML.ORG – US Drug Enforcement Administration Announces Criminal Ban On Synthetic Marijuana Products — Chemicals To Be Categorized Like Heroin Under Federal Law

Washington, DC: United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials have announced that they will use the agency’s ’emergency scheduling authority’ to prohibit the possession and sale of chemical agents contained in so-called ‘fake’ herbal marijuana products, commonly marketed under the brands names ‘K2’ and ‘Spice.’

"[T]his 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 United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals and products should be permanently controlled," the DEA stated in a November 24, 2010 press release. "They will be designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category, which is reserved for unsafe, highly abused substances with no medical usage."

The federal ban will take effect within 30 days.

Fifteen states have criminalized the sale and possession of "K2" and similar products.

Under the proposed ban, the synthetic agonists JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol will be placed in the same category as heroin under federal law. The DEA has the authority to move expeditiously to prohibit the sale, possession, and use of certain non-medical substances that it believes constitute "an imminent public health crisis."

The chemicals in question interact with endogenous cannabinoid receptors, eliciting certain physical and euphoric effects associated with the ingestion of marijuana.

Commenting on the DEA’s action, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "The growing popularity of products are 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."

He continued: "Given that most manufacturers of these products are overseas and not subject to U.S. laws and regulations, it is unlikely that the DEA’s action will in any way halt the dissemination, use, or misuse of these products by the public. Most likely, the DEA’s clamp down will 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.

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