Prohibition, 2012: Senate Passes Ban on Fake Pot, 'Bath Salts', 2C-E in Amendment Added to FDA Safety and Innovation Act

Thursday, the Senate passed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Safety and Innovation Act, including a research-threatening new amendment banning dozens of poorly understood synthetic drugs. The amendment is effectively a combination of three bills Senator Rand Paul had put hold on, frustrating the three legislators -- Senators  Chuck Grassley, Chuck Schumer, and Amy Klobucher --  who had introduced the legislation.

 The Act adds controversial drugs like 2C-E (and similar hallucinogenic compounds), synthetic marijuana ( also known by the brand name Spice') and 'meth-like' bath salts -- the latter two of which were previously sold in head shops --  to the Schedule I category of the Controlled Substance Act. As marijuana's Schedule I status has taught us, a Schedule I classification has profound effects on research. And unfortunately for science,  these substances are actually research chemicals. 

The media has clung to horror stories including suicides and other criminal behavior reportedly linked to fake pot, but has even more closely followed the bath salts "epidemic." In less than a year, bath-salts-related poison control calls spiked from 300 to more than 3,000. The government's knee-jerk reaction was to ban mephedrone and MDPV, common ingredients in the 'bath salts' sold as 'not-for-human-consumption'. But MDPV and mephedrone are only two of the better-known synthetic cathinones (which will remain available on the black market of course), and dozens of others still exist without a scheduled status. 

Perhaps a more egregious example of mindless prohibition, the new ban basically adds to Schedule I any substance that binds to cannabanoid receptors, effectively killing an entire area of research. 

 Dr. John Huffman of Clemson University, who developed synthetic cannabanoids with a research grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), told AlterNet he made the substances to better understand the relationship between “chemical structure and the biological activity of substances known as cannabinoids,” though they were not intended for human consumption. 

Dr. Huffman said cannabanoid receptors "may be involved in the development of conditions such as osteoporosis, liver disease and some kinds of cancer."

At the same time, Dr. Huffman told AlterNet banning them  “would have a very serious negative effect on research," making the NIDA support his research enjoyed for more than twenty years very unlikely. 

The amendment also doubles the time the Drug Enforcement Agency is allotted for emergency-scheduling, from one-and-a-half to three years. The DEA used that power to temporarily classify bath salts as Schedule I this September. 

Update: Schumer told the Staten Island Advance he expects a final version of the legislation to be on Obama's desk by July 4.

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at May 24, 2012, 12:12pm

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