Today marks 30 days from the announcement by the US Drug Enforcement Agency that five synthetic cannabinoids will be temporarily classified as Schedule I substances. For our international readers, this means that the compounds present a public health hazard and have no known medical use. We posted on this announcement back on November 27th.
The detailed chemical names of the five compounds are listed here at the DEA Office of Diversion site but their common names are CP-47,497, JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, and cannabicyclohexanol (a CP-47,497 analog). Some of them can be purchased on the internet in their pure form but they have been most commonly sold in the context of herbal incense products under names such as K2 Spice, Black Mamba, Black Magic, and others.
When the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on November 24th, the notice of intent indicated that the ban would go into effect upon publication of the final rule within 30 days. And although news organizations are reporting that the ban is now active, I cannot find the final rule on the Federal Register site for the life of me.
In any case, it appears that K2 marketers have been preparing for the ban by creating new products with undisclosed psychoactive compounds that allegedly circumvent the ban. Blog commenter, Andrew, shared this with us on December 13th:
As someone who generates two streams of income with the help of herbal incense this ban is a blessing. These products have been expanding, changing, and reinventing themselves since they were first released. Most of the larger companies have been working to satisfy the Michigan state requirements (until now the strictest). All of these new Michigan legal products will still satisfy the DEA requirements. As far as the products containing these DEA recognized chemicals, all we had to do was stock up the warehouses, lower the prices, and wait for the paranoid to flood the doors and stock up. This is the best Christmas gift that the good old USofA could have given me.
And here, from an online retailer, K2incenseblend.com (accessed today, December 24th)
Is K2 incense legal?
Page updated December 24, 2010
Most of the K2 product line are completely legal everywhere. The only K2 incense that may be restricted in a very few areas are:
There is also a new generation of K2 products that are completely legal everywhere. Not covered by any ban, restriction or regulation!
K2 Solid Sex
K2 Amazonian Shelter
K2 Thai Dream
All of these products can be purchased or resold without concern that they may be restricted and test negative for any known chemicals. Legal everywhere including Michigan, Kansas, Russia…. everywhere!!!
What might be in these products? My best guess comes from recent reports out of Louisiana of hospitalization due to the use of “bath salts” – products labeled “Cloud 9,” “Ivory Cloud,” or “Ivory Wave” that contain compounds such as mephedrone or a MDMA analog, 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). These compounds are not synthetic cannabinoids but rather CNS stimulants that may be perceived similarly to amphetamine, at least in animal models. My colleague, Drugmonkey has more on mephedrone here (and links therein). MDPV appears to be even less studied than mephedrone – the majority of PubMed literature returns on MDPV refer to Muscovy duck parvovirus.
Mephedrone is not expressly illegal in the US but the DEA notes on its information page that its similarity to methcathinone, a Schedule I compound, renders it illegal under the analogue provision of the Controlled Substances Act.
Products seized in Germany in 2007 seem to represent the first reported commercial exchange of MDPV and the Ivory Cloud product showed up in Australia earlier this year. Similar to the case of mephedrone, a DEA PDF on MDPV published this month cites the analogue association:
Currently, MDPV is not a scheduled drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). However, if intended for human consumption, MDPV can be considered an analogue of a schedule I drug under the CSA (Title 21 United States Code 813). Therefore, law enforcement cases involving MDPV can be prosecuted under the Federal Analogue Act of the CSA.
I find this story very interesting to follow especially because of the unusually high and sustained number of pageviews I receive on this topic – as well as by my neuropharmacology blogger colleagues, Drugmonkey and dr leigh at Neurodynamics. There remains clear public interest in these “legal highs” and it seems that opportunistic chemists attempt to stay one step ahead of regulatory authorities.
DEA spokewoman Barbara Carreno was quoted Wednesday in the Greensboro News-Record by Dione Wise:
The DEA is aware that many more than five chemicals are available and that second-generation products have been created to elude state bans.
“We can’t study 200 substances, so we take five of the most common,” Carreno said.
With designer drugs, someone can tweak a chemical by a molecule. “That’s an issue. That’s a problem,” she said. “Synthetics is a growing field. … You really don’t know what you’re getting, what the chemicals are.”
But the US military isn’t allowing any wiggle room. All of these products have been outlawed for servicemen and servicewomen since earlier this year. Most recently, seven Army soldiers were punished by court martial in Alaska and ten midshipmen at the US Naval Academy face expulsion for sale and use of spice products.
For those of you stumbling on this post via a Google search, please do us all a big favor – especially at the holidays. Even though some of this stuff could be considered legal, PLEASE don’t drive while using any of these products.