Drug Policy

A Couple of Chucks Push Bans on Imitation Pot and Speed


Today the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill co-sponsored by Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) aimed at banning "the chemicals used to make the dangerous drug known as 'K2' or 'Spice.'" Unlike candy-flavored meth, which Grassley and Feinstein also have sought to ban, K2 and Spice definitely exist: They are brands of "incense" that consist of dried herbs sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids intended to provide a marijuana-like high. According to Grassley, they are deadly:

The David Mitchell Rozga Act, S. 605, [is] named for the 18-year-old from Indianola who took his own life in June 2010, soon after using K2 purchased from his local shopping mall. Poison control centers and emergency rooms around the country are reporting skyrocketing cases of calls and visits resulting from K2 use, with physical effects including increased agitation, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures. A number of people across the country have acted violently while under the influence of the drug, dying or injuring themselves and others.

David Rozga's death may have been the first in the country stemming from this new type of synthetic drug.  In January, a high-school student in Omaha killed his assistant principal and himself. He had K2 in his system.

Case closed. In Grassley's view, prohibition of K2 and similar products, making it a felony to manufacture or distribute them, is justified by three deaths, none of them directly caused by K2 but supposedly the result of violence triggered by the drug. And how do we know the drug is to blame? Because people took it and did bad things. No drug—least of all alcohol—would pass the Grassley test. (In a 2009 Reason article, I described how a single teenage suicide had likewise driven state bans on Salvia divinorum.) 

Grassley's bill is much broader than the Drug Enforcement Administration's "emergency" ban on four specific chemicals used in fake pot. It names 15 compounds and also covers "any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of cannabimimetic agents," unless that chemical is specifically exempted or listed elsewhere in the Controlled Substances Act. The bill defines "cannabimimetic agent" as "any substance that is a cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) agonist." Although Grassley claims his bill "treats K2 like other banned narcotics such as methamphetamine and cocaine," that is not accurate: Methamphetamine and cocaine (which are stimulants, not "narcotics") are both Schedule II drugs, meaning the government recognizes legitimate medical uses for them, whereas the David Mitchell Rozga Act classifies "cannabimimetic agents" as Schedule I drugs, meaning they are banned for all purposes.

The Drug Policy Alliance's Grant Smith says such hasty action is unjustified, calling instead for "an approach that restricts how these drugs are marketed, provides comprehensive drug education, and has strict age controls." He adds:

Congress should…support rigorous scientific study to better understand what is in these products, and establish a robust system of regulation and control of the synthetic drug market…

Each product contains chemical compounds that are poorly understood by scientists. In fact, very little scientific research has been conducted on the pharmacological and psychopharmacological properties of synthetic drugs, and plans to place synthetic drugs in Schedule I would jeopardize further scientific study even as more research is needed to identify potential medical benefits and health harms.

Smith also notes that "the only reason that people use synthetic marijuana is because the real thing is illegal." As I've said before, that situation is utterly irrational in terms of public safety or consumer protection, since marijuana is much more thoroughly researched and its hazards are minimal.

On Tuesday, Smith notes, the House Subcommittee on Health approved, by a voice vote, a bill similar to Grassley's. In addition to synthetic cannabinoids, that bill, H.R. 1254, also bans 15 stimulants used in imitation speed (a.k.a. "bath salts"). Testifying (PDF) before the subcommittee on July 21, the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.), noted that "these drugs can in fact be even more harmful than the substances they simulate." Dent made this observation to show the need for prohibition, not to cast doubt on the wisdom of the government's arbitrary distinctions among psychoactive substances. His implicit premise seems to be that the government must ban all substances more hazardous than the ones that are already prohibited. Under that rule, like Grassley's, there would be no legal drugs left, with the possible exception of caffeine.

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  1. Caffeine wouldn’t meet the test either. Overdoses are rare, but not impossible.

    1. OD’ing on caffeine is a spectacularly bad way to die, too.

    2. Physically (and psychologically) addictive, too. Just ask anyone who stopped their 2 cups of coffee every day.

  2. Time to stock up, I guess.

    1. A friend went out and spent about $200 or so.

    2. well its banned in my state, but you can still buy it online, just like every other banned substance, but really i would go with a real M.O.M. than import this, since the penatly is the same

  3. Those symptoms also describe most sports fans I’ve met.

  4. I wonder how many more decades the war on drugs is going to last. We’ll all be in federal prison before it happens, I bet.

    1. At the rate we’re going and judging by libertarian victories in this battle… 4 ever.

    2. I wonder who will prohibit the drugs most Congresscritters are currently enjoying? When I review the progress and pronunciations on the debt; I wonder what psychotropic chemicals are influencing their judgement process?

  5. god i hate these nanny-stater prohibitionists. Do they realize how insane they sound when they make these pronouncements???

    1. The chucks make me want to upchuck.

      1. “Chuck. You know what that rhymes with, right?”

        1. Reading the headline, I was sure that Schumer was going to be one of them.

          1. Nothing good rhymes with Schumer.

          2. He still is in spirit, trust me.

            1. Yeah, I figured he just didn’t have time to make this a Chuck-3-way.

              1. I should kill you for putting that image in my head.

              2. Chuck-3-way… sounds like the name of a kids’ restaraunt.

                1. Thanks, Paul. Episiarch, combine those comments and tell me what image that puts in your head.

                  Or just wait until SF’s slash fic comes out…


                    1. Barfman, where are you?

  6. But this time, prohibition will work. We’ll put some new men in charge. Fresh meat if you will.

    Top. Sirloin.

  7. Poison control centers and emergency rooms around the country are reporting skyrocketing cases of calls and visits resulting from K2 use…

    Is this, like, real data that exists somewhere? Or is it one of those something-someone-told-somebody whose aunt is a nurse–no really, she is– citations?

    1. Sky rockets in flight. Afternoon delight. Afternoon delight.


    2. Starting from a baseline of zero, two cases would be “skyrocketing.”

      1. +?%

        Suck it, squirrels.

  8. A lot of those analogues are nasty stuff – toxic metabolites and such. They’re research molecules, be cautious …

    1. It seems smoking the real weed might be totally harmless compared to sniffing some random chemical who’s only point in its favor is that it is legal.

      I’ll be in back sniffing glue.

      1. Imagine if Monsanto got into the weed market. Genetically modified weed! Greenpeace would have a shitfit!

      2. Yup, stick with the tried and true …

  9. Under that rule, like Grassley’s, there would be no legal drugs left, with the possible exception of caffeine.

    You think this isn’t intentional?

    1. About fucking time.

    2. Chocolate contains theobromine & caffeine. So obviously, any legislator considering outlawing either of those immediately would lose 98% of the female vote…


  10. Day 1: “The drug war is a losing effort and needs to be scaled back!”

    Day 2: “Ban more drugs!”

  11. I am another Chuck who would like to ban all substances that lead to the unnecessary deaths of poor young innocent yutes. And the fact that the law is named after a yute who unfortunately died as a result of using the new substance, that makes me especially hard.

    1. Careful. Moobs are next.

    1. any story with the phrase “plowing into the Ferrari” makes my spine shiver.

      1. Why do the girls in one of those pictures look like teenagers or sorority girls? Women in hot cars should look like this.

        1. Oh Salma…your name is as pretty as your boobs.

  12. Its harmless, just as Cannabis is. THey banned it in my state and took away the anti-inflamitory and pain relief. Cant smoke the real stuff in this state, non med state, where i used to live i was allowed to grow, here, they have taken away my meds and made me resort to opiates

  13. Oh no! Someone is enjoying himself!


    1. Enjoyment PWNAGE!!!

      1. Has that guy been back recently? I had more fun with him than any troll since Lonewacko.

        1. Unfortunately, not that I know of.

  14. I like Chuckles when he’s badgering the Pentagon about wasteful spending, but every now and then he goes hard-core so-con and promotes some dumb-shit new law like this one.

  15. I find it even more offensive than usual to name the law after this kid given that he killed himself. When can we have some fucking property rights over our own bodies?

    1. Silly nicole. Don’t you know everything belongs to the state?

  16. Why the need for age controls?

  17. They should def make those illegal if people have died from them. But you know what hasn’t caused people to die like that? marijuana, so why not legalize that. no one would even buy k2 if we legalized that. gosh the government has such easy problems to solve.

    1. They should def make those illegal if people have died from them.

      I agree. Now lets go after tylenol, aspirin, cars, swimming pools, and fucking ladders.


  18. Medical pot, shouldn’t be denied to the small percentage of population whom don’t use it to play hiphop and literally do what their sodomiK “culture” (ACCEPTED ON SCHOOLS INSTEAD OF GOD) mu$ik “indu$trie$”: piratering, political party logi$TICK$, and as “the big fat fish ones, alzarkawi,tedpalpatinekennedy… symetric/a$$YmetriKal, dreamming to be bailedout for the trillion$, not “Bush’s” bi, billions, few.
    the system inside the system is well known, soFla santuary is an example of why even if you’re really a “perfect civillian”, if you are teaparty oriented… you have a 30 ayers old terror logi$tick after you… seeking the SANDINIST,FARC,MA NORIEGA,ETC “homelands” landlordship(t), as bhorK has on his terror relations, all the way since, on his own words: he was 8 ayers old he knew ayers was terrorist) the dreammed govring$, killing and burnning as they go… unchallenged…
    Medical natural products (not altered toxicmaterials/irresponsible processed cocaine…) are the last hope for many for temporary relieve for pain, save livers, make hungry naturally, relaxess muscless, stress, this is for injuried/any sickness people, old, traditional, indians use it, old religions understand it as medicine, common, even pot or (I don’t recomend if you’re not an Andino, and is natural coca) the old normal medicine untill the 30s/40s because of the “modern” former drugs, unnatural: lsd,heroine,crack today along the “culture”: gang,prisions,sodoma… blackpanties,hammas,castro,chavez,bhorK… “change”… and blawblawblaw (Moregovi$h, a lenguage I won’t pronuntiate here)…
    comming up: passing next to battlestar GWANDalf, do you TEA?
    TEApollo: GW, TEApollo, do you tea?, don’t you find lovely my imaginary jumperdestroyer sTEAlth?…

    1. Ummm

  19. They can’t even allow hr2306 on the floor for a hearing but they will just let another prohibition bill just slide through congress. Marijuana legalization should be an acid test to see how in or out of touch our elected officials are with their constituents. Anybody who supports s.605 VOTE THEM OUT!!!!

  20. Lawmakers are in the process of closing any loopholes that currently exist with laws pertaining to some herbal incense products, but there efforts will prove to be fruitless in the end. The prohibition of marijuana has created this demand for legal marijuana alternatives. A rather prosperous niche that will be tapped into for as long as marijuana continues to be illegal. There are many places one may still buy k2 incense and according to the vendors, like http://www.buyherbalincense.com the k2 herb products they sell are legal everywhere.

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