By Jacob Sullum
Last week the Drug Enforcement Administration imposed an emergency ban on five chemicals used to make the ersatz marijuana known as K2 or spice. But John W. Huffman, the chemist who synthesized three of the compounds for research purposes, tells the Associated Press there are "countless" potential replacements: substances that mimic the effects of THC, marijuana's main active ingredient, but are not covered by the Controlled Substances Act.
Although the act includes an "analog" provision aimed at such end runs, it arguably applies only to substances that not only simulate THC's psychoactive effects but are also structurally similar, which the K2/spice sprays are not. A.P. reports that "Mark Tucci, owner and CEO of Custom Blends Tobacco of Hilton Head, S.C., said he's already heard from suppliers who have promised new products with different chemicals that comply with the new regulations."
Huffman, by the way, had this to say about the three compounds he developed:
They are dangerous, and anyone who uses them is stupid. They seem to be pretty toxic.
Which reinforces my point that prohibition makes drug use more dangerous—in this case by driving people to use little-known and possibly hazardous replacemements for a drug that the DEA's own chief administrative law judge once called "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."
I recently discussed this issue on Russia Today's Alyona Show.