Synthetic Marijuana Is Now Officially Illegal


Photo: Chicago Tribune

Yes, it’s garbage and no, it’s not a good replacement for real cannabis. But today a whole new class of substances was added to the failed policy of drug prohibition.

As expected, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday announced that five variations of so-called “synthetic marijuana,” also known under brand names such as Spice, K2, and Black Mamba, have been added to its official list of illegal drugs, reports Jessica Fender at The Denver Post.

The chemicals in synthetic marijuana are created in laboratories, and are similar on a molecular level to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The substances are different enough than THC so that they don’t show up on drug screening urine tests.
The banned chemicals are JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497 and cannabicyclohexanol. The order was published Tuesday in the Federal Register, reports Kari Petrie at the St. Cloud Times.
The formulas were sprayed on smokable, organic materials that were sold in head shops as “incense” to get around rules for substances intended for human consumption.
The “emergency order” from the DEA makes possessing or selling products containing any of the five popular recipes for synthetic marijuana illegal for the next year.
The substances will be illegal while the agency “considers” whether or not to make the scheduling permanent. No decision to make any substance Schedule I has ever been rescinded.
“Young people are being harmed when they smoke these dangerous ‘fake pot’ products and wrongly equate the products ‘legal’ retail availability with being ‘safe,’ ” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

The DEA listed the compounds under Schedule I, the most restrictive drug classification, which also includes marijuana, heroin, and LSD. Interestingly, cocaine and methamphetamine are both considered Schedule II drugs under the DEA’s nonsensical classification scheme.
Long before the restrictions became final, head shops and other outlets were already selling reformulated varieties of synthetic marijuana that contain different chemicals than those banned by the DEA.
State lawmakers in Colorado and elsewhere are working to close that loophole. Colorado Senate Bill 134 would ban “any chemical that interacts with the brain in the same way that traditional marijuana does.” That interesting legislation, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, is scheduled for its first hearing on March 9 in the chamber’s judiciary committee.
Dan Francis, head of the Retail Compliance Association, a group that represents retailers who sell these substances, said that despite his members’ opposition to the ban, “We’re all about compliance,” reports Maia Szalavitz at Time.
“Immediately what we’ll start doing is trying to get member stores to comply,” Francis said. “We’re not trying to find ways to break the law. We’re trying to make sure our members understand how to keep within the law.”
The owner of a Duluth, Minnesota head shop said the new federal ban won’t make much difference — he’ll just stock brands that use other, still-legal substances.
Jim Carlson, owner of the Last Place On Earth, said he will still stock top-selling brands of fake pot.
“We’re just going to pull in the ones with different compounds — and they are readily available,” Carlson told Lisa Bauman at the Duluth News Tribune.
Carlson said with about 210 similar chemicals available, the manufacturers will try to keep one step ahead of the DEA.
“Unfortunately he is correct,” said Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. “There are many of these substances and we chose five common ones because we don’t have the resources to study all of them.”
Largely unmentioned was the fact that if it weren’t for our current marijuana prohibition, this chemical garbage would never have become popular in the first place. Nobody I know would want these screwed-up, weak-ass cannabis substitutes if they could get the real thing.