The United States Drug Enforcement Administration is using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control the distribution of five chemicals used to make "fake pot" products.
The chemicals are JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol.
"Except as authorized by law, this action will make possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals and products should be permanently controlled," the DEA said in a prepared statement Wednesday.
The products are plant material covered with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in pot that gets people high. Over the past year, the smokable herbal blends sparked controversy when merchants began peddling the products. The fervor escalated with several reports of teens and young adults being hospitalized after smoking the incense.
"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 incense to mask their intended purpose," the DEA said.
"The American public looks to the DEA to protect its children and communities from those who would exploit them for their own gain," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that 'fake pot' is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs, but that is not the case. Today's action will call further attention to the risks of ingesting unknown compounds and will hopefully take away any incentive to try these products."
Fifteen states have already taken action to control one or more of these chemicals, according to the DEA. The city of Dallas banned the substance earlier in the year and imposes a fine of $2,000 for the sale or possession of synthetic marijunana. Several other North Texas cities have bans in place or are drafting legislation to stop the sale of the products.
Through a 1984 amendment to the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA can "emergency schedule an abused, harmful, non-medical substance in order to avoid an imminent public health crisis while the formal rule-making procedures described in the CSA are being conducted."