The Drug Enforcement Administration has extended a ban for six months on five chemicals found in the smokeable herbal blend known as “K2” or “Spice.”
In 2010, Kansas was the first state in the country to ban such chemicals after law enforcement began seeing the drug, which mimics the effects of marijuana, sold in Kansas stores. Before the ban, K2 was a popular item sold at a local store, Sacred Journey, 1103 Mass.
After Kansas made the chemicals illegal, numerous other states followed suit.
The problem? Crafty drug makers began making similar versions of the drug, such as “K3,” with chemicals not banned under the law. The state of Kansas addressed that problem by banning classes of chemicals in 2011, meaning that even modified chemicals still fall under the law.
Deputy Tom Erickson, spokesman for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, said the Kansas law has “absolutely” made a difference in their area.
“We have the strictest laws in the country,” he said. Drug makers “don’t want anything to do with Kansas.”
Erickson said they still see versions of K2 but not nearly as often as they did before the Kansas law.
The DEA ban, which expires Sept. 1, makes the chemicals found in K2 a Schedule 1 drug, which means the drug has a high abuse potential and no known medical use. Possession, manufacturing and trafficking are all federal felonies with stiff penalties — up to life imprisonment in some cases.
Rusty Payne, DEA spokesman, said the DEA is working to permanently add the chemicals to the Schedule 1 list, which involves a joint process conducted by the DEA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The DEA ban gives federal authorities jurisdiction to enforce the law in any state.
But if the chemicals are scheduled, that still leaves the door open for drug makers who are using altered chemicals that aren’t Schedule 1 drugs.
“That’s the whole challenge,” said Payne about trying to keep up with drug manufacturers.
Pending legislation in Congress similar to the Kansas law, however, might close that gap. That bill, HR 1254, passed the House of Representatives in 2011 and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The federal legislation broadens the scope of the DEA ban and includes any chemical that is a “cannabinoid receptor.”
Payne said that would help counteract drug makers who simplify modify the compounds in K2-like substances to skirt the current ban.