Over the past several months we have been hearing in the news a lot about a legal drug called Spice or K2. These products are sold under the pretence of being incense and have warning labels saying they are not to be smoked or consumed. These products showed up back in the 1990’s and were advertised as incense and legal synthetic marijuana. After the “incense” became popular in Europe many countries analyzed the compounds that give the consumer that marijuana like high and discovered the incense is covered in synthetic cannabinoids. These synthetic cannabinoids are drugs formulated by laboratories to have marijuana like effects. After this discovery many countries including Germany, France, Chile and many others banned the products from being sold.
The United States federal government is now getting on board with the ban after 15 states have already banned sales of these “legal high” products. On November 24th 2010 the DEA enacted its emergency powers to make the active chemicals in Spice, K2 and other synthetic marijuana products illegal. After a 30 day waiting period the “legal high” products will then be an illegal schedule 1 drug. Which means by Christmas 2010 Spice and K2 will be illegal drugs with NO medical use.
Sophia Kang, a pharmacology student at Pacific University in Forest Grove Oregon, explained that the active drugs in these synthetic products are failed drugs that were created but never tested on humans. These drugs were designed to have THC (the active chemical in marijuana) effects but were never tested and approved by the FDA. These recipes for synthetic THC were put away on a shelf, so to speak, until incense manufacturers figured out a way to market them. Since the drugs were never tested and never really made it anywhere they were never scrutinized to be considered legal or illegal. It is no different if a person takes household chemicals and discovers a combination that gets people high and then starts selling it. At this point it’s not illegal to do that, however it is highly dangerous.
The American Association of Poison Control has received more that 1500 calls relating to synthetic marijuana in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The chemicals are not believed to be manufactured in the United States. In 2010 U.S. Customs has intercepted several shipments of the drugs used to make the synthetic marijuana; one shipment was as large as 110 lbs of the drug.