Leaked: DEA will launch federal crackdown on synthetic marijuana
The feds are finally coming after fake pot.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has been taking aim at the chemical compounds in synthetic marijuana products for months, and on Tuesday the agency is pulling the trigger.
According to an advance copy of the agency's regulation obtained by City Pages, five of the most commonly used compounds in fake-pot products like K2 and Spice will be added to the list of Schedule-1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, effective March 1.
Synthetic marijuana, described in our cover story last summer, has exploded into a multi-million-dollar industry over the past year. In response, 18 states have already banned the products, and others including Minnesota have legislation pending.
DEA administrator Michele Leonhart
"This action is based on a finding by the Administrator that the placement of these synthetic cannabinoids into Schedule I of the CSA is necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety," reads the document, which is dated February 18 and signed by Michele M. Leonhart, the DEA administrator.
Tomorrow's action by the DEA will immediately squash the booming industry, changing possession of synthetic marijuana products from a legitimate over-the-counter product to a felony drug offense overnight.
Marc Kurzman, a lawyer representing four Minnesota head shops in a lawsuit to block the DEA regulation, says merchants will have to quickly dispose of their once-legal product or risk turning into a criminal at midnight.
"By end of today, all of my clients will have photographed, tested, weighed and destroyed these substances," Kurzman says of the head shops' attempts to stay above board.
Wally Sak, owner of the Hideaway in Dinkytown, said his shop is trashing its entire stock of synthetic pot.
Smoke it if you got it: tomorrow this becomes contraband.
"We're throwing out everything we have, about $50,000 worth," Sak said. "It's a lot of money, but I don't want to become a felon tomorrow."
Jim Carlson, owner of The Last Place on Earth in Duluth, says his store will rush to sell out its remaining product with a fire sale tonight before the new regulation goes into effect.
"We're staying open until midnight," Carlson said. "If all goes well, we'll have sold it all in time. It's about $20,000 worth of stock."
The DEA first telegraphed its intention to schedule the substances last year, but held off on implementing the Final Order after the Minnesota shops sued to block the ban.
The stores lost in federal district court, but appealed the decision. On Friday, the Eighth Circuit denied their appeal. Kurzman says he will file a further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by the end of the week.
"They may not like the flavor it comes in, but this is exactly the kind of case Clarence Thomas has said he's looking for," Kurzman says. "The question here is whether a single bureaucrat can turn everyone into felons overnight."
Here's a copy of the new rule:
More synthetic marijuana coverage:
- K2 and the synthetic marijuana boom [COVER STORY]
- Synthetic marijuana bans spread to Princeton and Hastings
- Synthetic marijuana: Statewide ban in the works
- Duluth won't enforce its synthetic marijuana ban
- Minnesota head shops sue DEA over synthetic marijuana
- Synthetic marijuana: Head shops' lawyer says DEA overreached
- Synthetic marijuana ban passes Minnesota house
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