Salina The Kansas State Board of Pharmacy, at a meeting Wednesday in Lawrence, voted unanimously to take emergency action to place JWH-081 and three other chemicals on a list of temporarily illegal drugs.
That decision allows for the state to continue the prosecution of Salinan Eric Srack, 42, owner of The Grind. Srack was charged in late February with multiple felony counts of distributing, selling and delivering JWH-081, a synthetic drug that functions much like marijuana.
Srack's preliminary hearing, originally set for Wednesday, was postponed to April at the request of the prosecution.
The compound JWH-081 is one of literally hundreds of compounds, collectively called "synthetic cannabinoids," developed over the past few decades by researchers investigating possible medical uses.
Current state law includes a list of illegal substances but also provides a process for prosecuting for trafficking in so-called "analogs" of those substances -- even if they're not on that list -- provided the analogs are "substantially similar" in chemical structure and effect on humans.
In order to prosecute for trafficking in analogs, the pharmacy board must declare the analogs illegal. The declaration is for a period of up to one year, giving the Kansas Legislature time to decide whether to add the substances to the list of illegal drugs.
That's what the pharmacy board did Wednesday, said executive secretary Debra Billingsley.
The board voted unanimously, with little discussion, to add JWH-081, JWH-122, JWH-210 and AM-2201 to the list, Billingsley said.
"The Salina Police Department had provided us with quite a bit of information, and the Johnson County crime lab also provided us with quite a bit of information," she said.
The board's action must be ratified by the state Department of Administration and the Attorney General's Office, Billingsley said.
It was only the second time the Board of Pharmacy has taken such action, Billingsley said. The first time was in 2009, with BZP, which she described as "a designer drug, similar to ecstacy."
"There were none before that, but we expect more," she said. "There seem to be a lot more designer-type drugs popping up."
The Legislature is also working to rewrite illegal drug statutes, to move away from a list-based law to one that specifically includes synthetic analogs.
That bill passed the Kansas House on Feb. 7 by a 113-8 vote and is now in the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare.
In court Wednesday in Salina, assistant county attorney Jeff Ebel requested the delay in Srack's preliminary hearing because an expert witness he needed was unavailable.