US House Bans Synthetic Marijuana after Heated Debate

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(APN) ATLANTA — The US House of Representatives has voted to ban what appear to be a wide array of synethic cannabinoid strains, some which may have been used in herbal incense products in stores in Atlanta and across the US.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, many Atlanta stores are selling various brands of herbal incense sprayed with the laboratory chemicals made to mimic the effects of marijuana.  These chemicals are slight modifications of the chemical structure of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Unlike marijuana which has been used for thousands of years and has been found to have medicinal benefits and little to no harm, there is no research, or even extensive experience, with these new drugs.  Any individual who is experiencing addiction issues involving synthetic chemicals should contact a top marijuana rehab center.

HR 1254, the Synthetic Drug Control Act, was introduced in the US House by US Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA), with 23 co-sponsors.  It passed on December 08, 2011, 317-98.  It also bans bath salts.

“I first learned about the dangers of new synthetic drugs after reading an email from a constituent whose son’s life had nearly been destroyed by his abuse of synthetic marijuana or ‘spice’,” Dent said in a press release.

“Following that initial contact, a growing number of local residents shared with me powerful stories involving their own abuse of synthetic drugs or the destructive impact these substances have had on loved ones,” Dent said.

“Most shocking to me was the realization that these dangerous compounds could be purchased legally in stores across the country,” Dent said.

“I knew then it was time for Congress to move to ban the sale of these emerging synthetic drugs, which have thus far demonstrated no medicinal value,” Dent said.

US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has introduced a related bill in the US Senate, S. 605, which has eleven co-sponsors.

However, some Members of Congress spoke out against banning so many chemical compounds in this manner.

“Mr. Speaker, this bill will place over 40 chemical compounds on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act at a time when only eight of these substances can even be found in the United States.  And it does so in a way that circumvents the normal process, that skirts scheduling substances, and does so without any scientific or medical research or evidence to support it,” US Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) said during the Congressional hearing.

“Congress has a process for placing substances on drug schedules.  The Criminal Code sets forth a process that the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services must engage in to determine the propriety of scheduling substances.  The Secretary must conduct a scientific and medical evaluation and provide recommendations about whether the substances being analyzed need to be controlled.  And this needs to be a scientific study, not a compilation of anecdotes,” Scott said.

“In this there is a mechanism for addressing emergencies. In the case where the Attorney General on his own determines that there is an emergency, the Code provides that substances may be placed on Schedule I for up to 1 1/2 years while the evidence is being developed to permanently schedule them,” Scott said.

“Moreover, the Judiciary Committee during our consideration received numerous statements from pharmaceutical and medical researchers imploring us not to hamper their ability to determine possible medical uses of these substances by placing them on Schedule I, which makes it illegal to possess these substances without a permit even for research purposes,” Scott said.

“This includes promising research on the cure for Parkinson’s disease that would be compromised by this bill.  Now, even with a permit, the restrictions placed on researchers once they are placed on Schedule I are unduly onerous.  So there are legal uses of these substances,” Scott said.

“We are all opposed to the damage that these drugs can do to the American people, but I have to express my opposition to this bill,” US Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said.

“My concern about the bill is its effect on scientific research.  When a drug is placed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, it becomes difficult to obtain not only for illegal purposes but for researchers who wish to study its pharmaceutical and medical potential,” Lofgren said.

“While this may be justified for some drugs, it isn’t a restriction that should be implemented rashly. That’s because it becomes very difficult for scientists to get permission to obtain these molecules even for the scientific study that we need,” Lofgren said.

“For example, in the United States, only 325 researchers have been able to obtain Schedule I licenses at this moment.  Congress established the procedure for scheduling drugs, and it requires a scientific and medical evaluation.  This bill would bypass that process rather than relying on scientific and medical experts.  I’ve heard from faculty from a range of universities, and they’ve shared their concerns about the impact,” Lofgren said.

US Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) also spoke against the bill.

Meanwhile, the 2011 Monitoring the Future study of teen drug use, an annual study by the University of Michigan, found that 11.4 percent of teens reported using a synthetic marijuana product at least once within the past year.  This is the first year the study included a category for the drug.

The report also notes that marijuana use among teens continues to rise.

There are some Atlanta connections to the herbal incense industry.

As previously reported by APN, the Coalition for Cognitive Liberty, a group which opposes prohibition of synthetic marijuana products, is based in Alpharetta, Georgia.

And one company which manufactures a line of herbal incenses, Satchel Services, is based in downtown Atlanta.

(END/2011)

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