U.S. Naval Academy Cracks Down on Designer Drug “Spice”

Creative Commons image by Schorle.

Use of the legal-in-Maryland designer drug “Spice” just brought about its eighth expulsion of the academic year from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

The most recent midshipman expelled was a male “plebe,” the Academy’s word for “freshman,” according to a Navy Times feature. The investigation began last fall, and culminated in seven expulsions last month.

“Spice” is legal under U.S. federal law, and is sold under a variety of brand names in head shops and convenience stores. Though 18 states have placed restrictions on sales of the drug, Maryland is not one of them. The U.S. Navy has explicitly banned its use by personnel, however.

“Spice” is known more generically as synthetic cannabis, and is also called “K2” and, sometimes, “herbal incense.” The FDA announced its intention to ban the product late last year using its statutory emergency powers, but according to the latest on Erowid.com, that ban couldn’t be enforced until a 30-day period had passed and the ruling was placed in the Federal Register. That didn’t happen, because the DEA still has to write specific regulations for the substance. The product will not make users test positive for marijuana in a drug test, but it shows up in urine tests specific to synthetic cannabis.

As to what exactly Spice is — that’s anyone’s guess. It’s supposed to be legal herbs, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it found the illegal cannabinoid HU-210 in shipments of Spice it seized. HU-210 is a Schedule I drug in the U.S. — the same legal category as heroin.

Furthermore, researchers in Germany found that what’s promised on the label isn’t what’s in the package…like, at all.

Herbs listed on the packaging of Spice include Canavalia maritima, Nymphaea caerulea, Scutellaria nana, Pedicularis densiflora, Leonotis leonurus, Zornia latifolia, Nelumbo nucifera and Leonurus sibiricus. However, when the product was analyzed by laboratories in Germany and elsewhere, it was found that many of the characteristic “fingerprint” molecules expected to be present from the claimed plant ingredients were not present…This suggested that the actual ingredients might not be the same as what was listed on the packet, and a German government risk assessment of the product conducted in November 2008 concluded that it was unclear what the actual plant ingredients were…and whether the subjective cannabis-like effects were actually produced by any of the claimed plant ingredients or instead might possibly be caused by a synthetic cannabinoid drug.

John Huffman, the guy who first synthesized several synthetic cannabinoids, said that people who use Spice are idiots. Also, I hear it makes your eyes glow.


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