According to the Arizona Republic, the Drug Enforcement Administration is giving head shops until Christmas Eve to get rid of all their “Spice.” Spice is a synthetic drug intended to mimic the effects of marijuana. Because its effects are so unpredictable and it is so readily available, the DEA has decided to ban the drug for a year to conduct tests. I didn’t know much about spice before today, but I learned a lot reading the article.
Spice is apparently produced by taking chemical compounds from overseas manufacturers and spraying those compounds onto dried herbs. The chemicals bind to the same receptor in a human brain as the active ingredient in marijuana, but it’s more powerful than marijuana. It’s made with a chemical compound more potent than the active ingredient in marijuana, but people who use Spice apparently claim the chemically-enhanced high is shorter and less intense than what they experience with marijuana.
Immediately, the situation becomes clear. The government has banned marijuana, a plant that grows naturally from the earth, that has been smoked by humans for thousands of years, and that a few weeks ago we decided as a state to allow to be used for medical purposes. In place of marijuana, the ban has created something synthetic, made with chemicals from what I assume are questionable sources with lax quality control, and whose production involves spraying crap onto dried herbs. The result? Something stronger and likely more dangerous, similar but not nearly as enjoyable. Sounds like perfect drug war nonsense to me already.
Wide variations also exist with Spice because of the way it’s produced. That means consumers generally don’t know what they’re getting, and there are uncertain side effects. A Tucson legislator discussed in the article, a physician, once saw some college students come into the emergency room because one of their friends was experiencing some nasty side effects after smoking Spice; he couldn’t speak, his upper extremities were twitching and he complained of headaches and nausea. The other students were fine, though they too smoked spice. According to the article, there have been more than 2,000 calls to poison-control centers across the country because of Spice.
Disregard my statement that Spice is “likely” more dangerous; I’d say it’s undoubtedly more dangerous. Thousands of poison-control calls for something most people have probably never heard of, let alone used? I’ve never heard of anyone experiencing such terrible side effects from marijuana, and I’m perpetually amazed at how prevalent marijuana use is. Reading the article, I get the distinct impression that Spice is bad for me. I have no desire to ever smoke Spice, and I don’t think other people should smoke spice either. Unlike the powers that be, however, I don’t want it banned.
The article notes a major reason why I don’t want it banned. When they banned it in Europe, I guess it started a “rat race” where chemists tried to stay one step ahead of regulators. They kept finding new chemicals that would do the same thing but weren’t yet prohibited. From what I can tell, there’s a nearly unlimited number of things in the world that are capable of getting people high. When Spice is gone, maybe “Herbs” will take their place. Maybe some other silly brand name. In the ensuing race to get people high, some company is going to release something that kills someone. It isn’t like clinical tests are going to be done on these chemicals. The government makes everyone pretend they aren’t even intended to be consumed.
There are other problems too. After a similar ban in Germany, nearly half of the samples researchers seized contained no chemicals. According to the article, researchers thought chemical-free products were packaged and sold as Spice to capitalize on the popularity of the original Spice. Basically, people were being ripped off. Sure, the packaging has always been clearly marked with a stamp reading “not for human consumption,” but people smoked it. That was the point, and everyone knows that. People bought something expecting it was what it purported to be. They were defrauded.
The stupidity of all this makes my head spin. To summarize, the government banned the dried flowers from the Cannabis Sativa plant. As an alternate to smoking that relatively safe, naturally-occurring substance, which millions of people probably still smoke every day despite the ban, shady companies developed an untested, dangerous, synthetic version that was stronger but less enjoyable while at the same time being completely legal. Undaunted by the spectacular failure of its ban on marijuana and concerned about the danger of these new substances, which would not existed but for its ill-conceived ban on a far safer substance, the government wants to enact a new and equally stupid ban knowing that the result will either be newer and potentially even more dangerous, untested synthetic drugs in the worst case scenario, or rampant consumer fraud in the best case scenario.