DEA to the Rescue: Proposes Classifying Synthetic Cannabinoids as Schedule 1

Synthetic cannabinoids, a/k/a 'Spice' and 'K2,' finally get the attention they deserve.

The havoc wrought upon users by the novel psychoactive substances known as synthetic cannabinoids cannot be overstated. The knockoff drugs are manufactured to mimic the effects of marijuana, but the chemicals are in no ways derivative of cannabis. The results of so-called synthetic marijuana tend to be much more potent than a weed high and prone to inflicting harm in the user. Commonly sold on the street as “Spice,” or “K2,” these compounds are likely to elicit violent outbursts and a complete break from reality.

Public Awareness Campaign about the Dangers of K2 (via)

Hoping to stymie what has become a global epidemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration has proposed classifying some of these synthetic cannabinoids under the Schedule I designation of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning they have no accepted medical use in the United States, and carry high potential for abuse.

As reported in The Canniforian:

“The DEA proposes placing the chemical compounds AB-CHMINACA, AB-PINACA and THJ-2001 under Schedule I classification of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, according to proposed rulemaking filings made public Thursday and published Friday on the Federal Register. As the rulemaking process progresses, the DEA also is extending a temporary ban issued in 2015 for the three substances that have been linked to ‘multiple deaths and severe overdoses’ since 2013, according to the filings.”

On the danger and widespread use of synthetic substances, Russell Baer, a DEA spokesman, told The Cannabist via email: “Globally, synthetics are the No. 1 long-term drug threat: They are a favorite of drug traffickers worldwide because they are cheap and relatively easy to make, and can be produced anywhere.”

A 2016 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime pinpoints a majority of the production and packaging of synthetic psychoactive drugs––which includes extra strength methamphetamine––as coming from China and Southeast Asia.

The impact of synthetic cannabinoids is negative in a very large way. Indeed, findings from the 2016 Global Drugs Survey––a collection of drug data and information gathered anonymously from users all over the world––show that “1 in 8 of those using [the substances] weekly or more often reported seeking emergency medical treatment.” The GDS reports that synthetic substances such as Spice are three times more likely than any other drug to send the user to the hospital. 

According to Baer’s email to The Cannabist, deaths caused by novel psychoactive drugs in the U.S. alone increased from “1,302 in 2008 to 4,298 in 2014.”

Synthetic marijuana (via)

The Global Drug Survey's founder, psychiatrist Dr. Adam Winstock, told KINDLAND that the emergence and widespread use of novel psychoactive substances [NPS] is growing at a trending pace. Winstock believes that distribution of these chemical compounds often takes place on Dark Net drug markets, or other online forums utilized by the computer savvy dealers of the contemporary drug trade. In 2015, the GDS observed Dark Net transactions in the United Kingdom accounting for more than half of all NPS buys, with 58 percent of respondents that used the compounds, saying they bought their poison online. 

In the United States, Spice and substances of its ilk have also been marketed under-the-counter in Skid Row areas to a target audience with zero computer access or digital savvy, resulting in mass overdose events among some of the country's most vulnerable populations.

Concerned parties have through February 27 to comment on the DEA’s proposed reclassification.