Drug Policy

The DEA Pretends to Have Fake Pot Under Control

|


The Drug Enforcement Administration's "emergency" ban on five chemicals used to make ersatz marijuana took effect on Tuesday. The Drug War Chronicle reports that the ban, which was originally scheduled to begin in December, was delayed because of legal challenges by fake-pot retailers. The DEA says it is trying to "avoid an imminent threat to the public safety," as reflected in "an increasing number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products." Reported side effects include "anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting, and disorientation." (As the Chronicle notes, these are similar to the symptoms reported by a small percentage of marijuana users.) DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart adds:

Young people are being harmed when they smoke these dangerous "fake pot" products and wrongly equate the products' "legal" retail availability with being "safe." Parents and community leaders look to us to help them protect their kids, and we have not let them down.

Leonhart is right that it would be foolish to think there is anything especially dangerous about the intoxicants the government chooses to ban, or especially safe about the ones it tolerates. But if parents expect the DEA's edict to make fake pot disappear, they may be disappointed. The DEA's order covers five chemicals that have been detected in "incense" products like K2 and Spice: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. But the scientist who created three of these compounds says there are many legal substances that can simulate the effects of THC, and last fall the Associated Press reported that manufacturers already had substitutes lined up. The makers of K2 boast that "our new blends are 100% legal everywhere and not covered by the new bans!"

Even if the DEA's ban had not been so blatantly pre-empted, Leonhart's sense of her own power in these matters would border on the delusional. The headline over the DEA's press release says the "chemicals used in 'Spice' and 'K2' type products" are "now under federal control and regulation." Just like real marijuana?

More on fake pot here.