151. "Spice" and Other Herbal Highs

"‘Spice’ and other ‘herbal’ products are often referred to as ‘legal highs’ or ‘herbal highs’, in reference to their legal status and purported natural herbal make-up (McLachlan, 2009; Lindigkeit et al., 2009; Zimmermann et al., 2009). However, albeit not controlled, it appears that most of the ingredients listed on the packaging are actually not present in the ‘Spice’ products and it is seems likely that the psychoactive effects reported are most probably due to added synthetic cannabinoids, which are not shown on the label. There is no evidence that JWH, CP and/or HU [three chemically distinct groups of synthetic cannabinoids] compounds are present in all ‘Spice’ products or even batches of the same product. Different amounts or combinations of these substances seem to have been used in different ‘Spice’ products to produce cannabis-like effects. It is possible that substances from these or other chemical groups with a cannabinoid agonist or other pharmacological activity could be added to any herbal mixture (17) (Griffiths et al., 2009).
"The emergence of new, smokable herbal products laced with synthetic cannabinoids can also be seen as a significant new development in the field of so-called ‘designer drugs’. With the appearance, for the first time, of new synthetic cannabinoids, it can be anticipated that the concept of ‘designer drugs’ being almost exclusively linked to the large series of compounds with phenethylamine and tryptamine nucleus will change significantly (18). There are more than 100 known compounds with cannabinoid receptor activity and it can be assumed that further such substances from different chemical groups will appear (with direct or indirect stimulation of CB1 receptors)."

"Understanding the 'Spice' phenomenon," European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2009), p. 21.

152. Synthetic Cannabinoids K2 and "Spice"

"Clemson University Professor John Huffman is credited with first synthesizing some of the cannabinoids, such as JWH-018, now used in 'fake pot' substances such as K2. The effects of JWH-018 can be 10 times stronger than those of THC. Dr. Huffman is quoted as saying, 'These things are dangerous—anybody who uses them is playing Russian roulette. They have profound psychological effects. We never intended them for human consumption.'"

Sacco, Lisa N. and Finklea, Kristin M., "Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, October 28, 2011), p. 5.

153. Prevalence of Synthetic Cannabinoid Use Among Young People in the US

"Synthetic marijuana, so named because it contains synthetic versions of some of the cannabinoids found in marijuana, is a recent and important addition to the smorgasbord of drugs available to young people in the US. These designer chemicals are sprayed onto herbal materials that are then sold in small packets under such brand names as Spice and K-2. They have been readily available as over-the-counter drugs on the Internet and in venues like head shops and gas stations. While many of the most widely used chemicals were scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Administration in March of 2011, making their sale no longer legal, purveyors of these products have skirted the restrictions by making small changes in the chemical composition of the cannabinoids used. Use of these products was first measured in MTF in 2011 in a tripwire question for 12th graders, asking about their frequency of use in the prior 12 months (see Table 2-2). Annual prevalence was found to be 11.4%, making synthetic marijuana the second most widely used class of illicit drug after marijuana that year. In spite of the DEA’s scheduling of the most common ingredients, use among 12th graders remained unchanged in 2012, with 11.3% annual prevalence. Eighth and 10th graders were also asked about use of these drugs in 2012, and their annual prevalence levels were 4.4% and 8.8%, respectively, making synthetic marijuana the second most widely used illicit drug among 10th graders, as well, and the third among 8th graders behind marijuana and inhalants. In 2013 use dropped appreciably in all five populations, including statistically significant drops among 12th graders, college students, and young adults. These declines continued in 2014 with significant drops in prevalence among young adults, college students, 12th and 10th graders (a decline among 8th-grade students was not statistically significant). Efforts by the DEA and various states to make their sale illegal may well have had an impact. In 2015 prevalence continued to decline for 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students, although none of the one-year declines were statistically significant. Among young adults and college students prevalence has leveled, with signs of a possible reversal in course with a slight uptick of .2 points (ns) for young adults and .6 (ns) for college students. There is a relatively low level of perceived risk for trying synthetic marijuana once or twice, despite growing evidence of serious problems resulting from the use of these drugs."

Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2015: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, pp. 15-16. Available at

154. "Spice" Prohibition

"Because of health concerns and the abuse potential of herbal incense products, many have been banned in several European countries, 18 U.S. states, and the U.S. military.33,38 In March 2011, the FDA placed 5 synthetic cannabinoids (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol) on Schedule I, making them illegal to possess or sell in the United States.38"

Pierre, Joseph M., "Cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids, and psychosis risk: What the evidence says," Current Psychiatry (Parsippany, NJ: September 2011) Vol. 10, No. 9, p. 56.

155. Scheduling of "Spice"

"On March 1, 2011, the DEA used its temporary scheduling authority and issued a final rule to place five synthetic cannabinoids on the list of controlled substances under Schedule I of the CSA.26 The five substances are
"• 1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole (JWH-018);
"• 1-butyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole (JWH-073);
"• 1-[2-(4-morpholinyl)ethyl]-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole (JWH-200);
"• 5-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol (CP-47,497); and
"• 5-(1,1-dimethyloctyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol (cannabicyclohexanol; CP-47,497 C8 homologue).
"Pursuant to the temporary scheduling authority, these substances will remain on the list of Schedule I controlled substances for one year, and then may be given one six-month temporary extension. To remain on Schedule I thereafter, the substances would need to be permanently scheduled within the CSA."

Sacco, Lisa N. and Finklea, Kristin M., "Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, October 28, 2011), p. 6.

156. State Bans on Synthetic Cannabinoids

"At this time, forty-six (46) states and the federal government have scheduled one or more synthetic cannabinoids by statute or regulation and twenty-nine (29) states have some form of the generic language. Of the four states that have not scheduled one or more of the synthetic cannabinoids, Louisiana and Nebraska include the generic language. The only two states that have not yet scheduled any of the synthetic cannabinoids or the generic language are Maryland and Rhode Island. Maryland had four bills pending this legislative session, but was unable to get legislation passed before the session adjourned. There is still a regulation pending in Maryland that would schedule certain cannabinoids. The District of Columbia also has legislation pending. Rhode Island, however, does not have anything pending at this time."

Gray, Heather, "An Introduction to Synthetic Drugs," National Alliiance for Model State Drug Laws (Santa Fe, NM: June 2012), p. 11.

157. Schedule One and Limits on Research

"There is shared concern among researchers that adding these substances to Schedule I could hinder medical research. As previously mentioned, Professor Huffman did not intend for K2 to be consumed by humans. He is, however, against adding synthetic cannabinoids to Schedule I, asserting that there is still much to learn about synthetic cannabinoids and that placing them on Schedule I would create too many hurdles for researchers who need to access these drugs.58 Professor Huffman has created several synthetic cannabinoids that are seen as showing promise in treating skin cancers, pain, and inflammation."

Sacco, Lisa N. and Finklea, Kristin M., "Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, October 28, 2011), p. 13.

158. Testing for Use of Synthetic Cannabinoids

"Most of the synthetic cannabinoids added as not-listed ingredients to Spice products are very difficult to detect by commonly used drug screening procedures. Apart from the analogs of THC such as HU-210, the structure of these new synthetic cannabinoids differs from that of THC, so that they probably will not trigger a positive test for cannabinoids in immunoassays of body fluids."

Fattore, Liana and Fratta, Walter "Beyond THC: the new generation of cannabinoid designer drugs," Frontiers in Behaviorial Neuroscience (Lausanne, Switzerland: September 2011) Volume 5, Article 60, p. 4.

159. Monitoring of Spice and New Psychoactive Substances

"A dramatic online snapshot of the Spice phenomenon as an emerging trend has been recently given by an important web mapping program, the Psychonaut Web Mapping Project, a European Commission-funded project involving researchers from seven European countries (Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and UK), which aims to develop a web scanning system to identify newly marketed psychoactive compounds, and their combinations (e.g., ketamine and Spice, cannabis and Spice), on the basis of the information available on the Internet (Psychonaut Web Mapping Research Group, 2010). As a major result of the Project, a new and updated web-based database is now widely accessible to implement a regular monitoring of the web for novel and recreational drugs."

Fattore, Liana and Fratta, Walter "Beyond THC: the new generation of cannabinoid designer drugs," Frontiers in Behaviorial Neuroscience (Lausanne, Switzerland: September 2011) Volume 5, Article 60, p. 3.

160. Cannabis Prohibition Ineffective

"Increased funding for cannabis prohibition has increased cannabis seizures and arrests, but the assumption that this reduces cannabis potency, increases price or meaningfully reduces availability or use is inconsistent with surveillance data the US federal government has itself collected."

International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, "Tools for Debate: US Federal Government Data on Cannabis Prohibition" (Vancouver, British Columbia: 2010), p. 21.

161. Political History of Marijuana Law Reform

"The identification of cannabis as a potentially dangerous psychoactive substance did not, however, prevent a substantial number of these enquiries to explore the issue of whether current legislation reflected the real dangers posed by cannabis. Already in 1944, the La Guardia Committee Report on Marihuana concluded that ‘the practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word’ and that ‘the use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction’ (Zimmer and Morgan, 1997). In 1968 the Wootton Report stated that ‘the dangers of cannabis use as commonly accepted in the past and the risk of progression to opiates have been overstated’ and ‘cannabis is less harmful than other substances (amphetamines, barbiturates, codeine-like compounds)’. A similar conclusion was arrived at 34 years later in 2002 when the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence proposed the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C (enforced by law in 2004 and confirmed in 2005). These views were reiterated by other enquiries, such as the Baan Committee in the Netherlands, which affirmed in 1971 that ‘cannabis use does not lead directly to other drug use’ (16) or by the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, which in 1973 stated that ‘the existing social and legal policy is out of proportion to the individual and social harm engendered by the use of the drug [cannabis]’ (17). The Canadian Le Dain Commission saw ‘the UN Single Convention of 1961 as responsible’ for such a situation which ‘might have reinforced the erroneous impression that cannabis is to be assimilated to the opiate narcotics’. The same commission, however, suggested that the UN Convention did ‘not prevent domestic legislation from correcting this impression’ (18)."

EMCDDA (2008), "A cannabis reader: global issues and local experiences," Monograph series 8, Volume 1, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Lisbon, p. 108.

162. Effect of Prohibition on Drug Use

"Prohibition has two effects: on one hand it raises supplier costs, disrupts market functioning and prevents open promotion of the product; on the other, it sacrifices the authorities’ ability to tax transactions and regulate operation of the market, product characteristics and promotional activity of suppliers. The cannabis prevalence rates presented in Figure 1 show clearly that prohibition has failed to prevent widespread use of the drug and leaves open the possibility that it might be easier to control the harmful use of cannabis by regulation of a legal market than to control illicit consumption under prohibition. The contrast between the general welcome for tobacco regulation (including bans on smoking in public places) and the deep suspicion of prohibition policy on cannabis is striking and suggests that a middle course of legalised but limited consumption may find a public consensus."

"Pudney, Stephen, "Drugs Policy – What Should We Do About Cannabis?" Centre for Economic Policy Research (London, United Kingdom: April 2009), p. 23.

163. History of Marijuana Use

"There are indications that cannabis was used as early as 4000 B.C. in Central Asia and north-western China, with written evidence going back to 2700 B.C. in the pharmacopeia of emperor Chen-Nong. It then gradually spread across the globe, to India (some 1500 B.C., also mentioned in Altharva Veda, one of four holy books about 1400 B.C.1), the Near and Middle East (some 900 B.C.), Europe (some 800 B.C.), various parts of South-East Asia (2nd century A.D.), Africa (as of the 11th century A.D.) to the Americas (19th century) and the rest of the world.2"

"A Century of International Drug Control," United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (Vienna, Austria: 2009), p. 15.

164. THC Content

"The secretion of THC is most abundant in the flowering heads and surrounding leaves. The amount of resin secreted is influenced by environmental conditions during growth (light, temperature and humidity), sex of the plant, and time of harvest. The THC content varies between parts of the plant: from 10-12 % in flowers, 1-2 % in leaves, 0.1-0.3 % in stalks, to less than 0.03 % in the roots."

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, "World Drug Report 2009" (Vienna, Austria: United Nations, 2009), p. 97.

165. Taxonomy of Cannabis

"The biological (reproductive) definition of a species states that all specimens of a population are of a single species if they are naturally able to sexually reproduce, generating fertile offspring. This is the case throughout the genus Cannabis, and by this definition, therefore, there are no clear biological grounds to separate it into different species.However, within the species Cannabis sativa L., several subspecies are sometimes identified (Small and Cronquist, 1976).
"Despite this, modern Cannabis taxonomy remains confused, as a scientific minority prefers to define species according to their typological or morphological characteristics. In 1974, Schultes et al. described three putative species, Cannabis sativa L. (a typically tall species used for fibre, seed or psychoactive use), Cannabis indica Lam. (a short, wide-leafed plant from Afghanistan, used to produce resin) and Cannabis ruderalis Jan. (a short unbranched roadside plant with minimal drug content)."

"EMCDDA Insights: Cannabis production and markets in Europe," European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Lisbon, Portugal: 2012), p. 21.

166. The Cannabis Plant

"Cultivated Sinsemilla: Female cannabis plant which has not been pollinated. May grow from cutting or from seed. May contain some seed (if un-pollinated the seed will be sterile). Common illicit indoor grow technique.
"Cultivated Non Sinsemilla: Male or Female cannabis plant commonly grown for illicit drug use.
"Cultivated Ditchweed: Male or Female cannabis plant which grows wild in many states that has in some way been tended by man. Examples of tending are: weeding, watering, topping, fertilizing, harvesting.
"Ditchweed: Unattended, wild male or female cannabis that is native to many states.
"Cannabis Bud: Flowering top of a female cannabis plant. The Bud may contain seed. Most valuable portion of a cannabis plant to the illicit grower. Bud formation occurs late in plant development.
"Leaf: Cannabis leaf potency tends to correlate to position on the plant. The most potent part of the plant is the new leaves at the top of the plant. As you move downward on the plant potency decreases. The least potent leaves on the plant are the large leaves at the bottom of the plant.
"Mature Cannabis: Mature cannabis plants have a higher potency than immature plants. Determination of plant maturity should be made using all available contextual factors. For example, is the plant outdoors and it only June or July, if so, then the plant is likely immature. However, if the growing season is near an end, such as September or October, then the plant is probably mature. Note male cannabis plants are mature as early as August when grown outdoors. It is more difficult to generalize regarding maturity of indoor grows. “Spike” cannabis plants can mature in as little as 6-8 weeks whereas an indoor grow with plants 3-4 feet in height may take 60-120 days to mature.
"Already Harvested: Cannabis plant material recently dried or packaged. May be either bud or leaf.
"Average Plant Canopy Diameter: Record the diameter of a typical mature cannabis plant at its broadest point through the center. Diameter data can be used to predict usable yield with good accuracy."

"Cannabis Potency Monitoring Form," Cannabis Potency Monitoring Project (University, MS: Univesity of Mississippi).