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Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012: Banning Spice and Bath Salts

On July 9, 2012, President Obama signed the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. At the end of this bill was the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012. As of the signing, many of the synthetic cannabinoids became Schedule I banned substances. Also banned is Mephedrone, and MDPV.

While there is little written within the legislation to explain why these substances are banned, it is clear that they are in response to the growing problems associated with Spice (synthetic cannabinoids) and Bath Salts (synthetic stimulants such as Mephedrone and MDPV).Also banned are 9 phenethylamine compounds (such as 2C-E), which are rather obscure psychedelics.

What is perhaps truly unique about the way the cannabinoids are banned is that it is not just a list of chemicals. While 15 chemicals are listed, the term “cannabimimetic agents” is also defined. Cannabimimetics agents are chemicals with certain THC-like structures that act as “cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) agonists.” The CB1 receptor is thought to be the primary location for THC’s intoxicating effects. Therefore, in theory, if a chemist synthesizes a new chemical that is not listed in the act, but still functions as a THC-similar CB1 receptor agonist, it would immediately fall under the Schedule I classification.

Of course, there would need to be laboratory experiments to demonstrate the CB1 action for every new chemical thought to be a cannabimimetic agent. So there is likely going to be a lag between the new products and federal action against all new chemicals.

The Federal law should make the sale of some brands of Spice and Bath Salts more difficult. However, drug possession and local sales are usually controlled by State laws. So matching laws will need to be adopted in each state to make this actually stick. From a campus perspective, as of the signing, most brands of Spice and Bath Salts would need to be banned from every campus that does not want to risk losing all federal funds under the Drug Free Schools and Community Act.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the law would take effect on October 1, 2012.  The legislation does not actually provide a date, and therefore it appears it became law upon being signed by the President.