While Virginia and many other states wrestle with legislation to ban synthetic marijuana products, the DEA has made a decisive move to intervene at a national level.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control five chemicals (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol) used to make so-called “fake pot” products. Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety. The temporary scheduling action 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 Final Order was published in the Federal Register to alert the public to this action. These chemicals will be controlled for at least 12 months, with the possibility of a six month extension. They are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.
Over the past couple of years, smokeable herbal products marketed as being “legal” and as providing a marijuana-like high, have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that claim to 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 FDA for human consumption, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process. Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as herbal incense to mask their intended purpose.
Since 2009, DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products. At least 16 states have already taken action to control one or more of these chemicals. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to allow the DEA Administrator to place a substance temporarily in schedule I when it is necessary to avoid an imminent threat to the public safety. Emergency room physicians report that individuals that use these types of products experience serious side effects which include: convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting, and disorientation.
“Young people are being harmed when they smoke these dangerous â€˜fake pot’ products and wrongly equate the products’ â€˜legal’ retail availability with being â€˜safe’,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Parents and community leaders look to us to help them protect their kids, and we have not let them down. Today’s action, while temporary, will reduce the number of young people being seen in hospital emergency rooms after ingesting these synthetic chemicals to get high.”