Editor's Note: The sale and consumption of Spice is now illegal in St. George, Hurricane and Cedar City.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to assist law enforcement in cracking down on the commercial sale of “Spice” by making the synthetic marijuana substitute a controlled substance.
In a letter this week to DEA Acting Administrator Michelle Leonhart, Hatch said Spice poses a risk to public health and yet is sold commercially in convenience stores, “head shops” and other retail outlets.
“Young adults and adolescents are turning to spice as a form of legalized marijuana,” Hatch wrote. “I’m sad to report that this trend is growing to epidemic proportions in my home state of Utah.”
More than two dozen states have passed legislation identifying Spice, which produces effects similar to marijuana and has been linked to two dozen deaths in the U.S., as a controlled substance. In Utah, the Provo City Council voted this week to ban the sale, use and production of Spice.
Hatch wants the DEA to classify Spice as a schedule I substance, which would lead to its removal from store shelves nationwide and enable law enforcement to address the growing problem of abuse of the synthetic drug.
“I believe that an emergency scheduling would be a great help in addressing and suppressing what is essentially legalized marijuana distribution,” Hatch told Leonhart in the letter.
A copy of Hatch’s letter to Leonhart is attached and follows:
The Honorable Michele Leonhart
Drug Enforcement Administration
U.S. Department of Justice
700 Army-Navy Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
Dear Administrator Leonhart,
I am concerned about the growing use of the street drug known as Spice. Spice is a cannabinoid which mimics the effects of THC. As you know, Spice is fast becoming an alternative to marijuana. It produces effects similar to marijuana and appears to be commercially available at convenience stores and paraphernalia retailers commonly referred to as “head shops.”
In March 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued an intelligence alert to law enforcement that Spice was becoming a drug and chemical of concern. At this time, Spice is currently not controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Young adults and adolescents are turning to Spice as a form of legalized marijuana. I am sad to report that this trend is growing to epidemic proportions in my home state of Utah. I have received numerous letters from constituents and had discussions with Utah law enforcement officials expressing the need for an administrative and legislative remedy to the Spice problem.
Currently, almost two dozen states have passed legislation identifying spice as a controlled substance. I am requesting your assistance in having the Drug Enforcement Administration exercise its emergency scheduling authority to classify Spice as a schedule I substance. Spice has a current pattern of abuse as a form of legalized marijuana that is being openly sold by retailers. Since your agency went so far as to issue a previous intelligence alert on this substance 19 months ago, the scope, duration and significance of Spice abuse was alarming to the Drug Enforcement Administration back then. Spice abuse and distribution continues to escalate. I firmly believe that Spice poses a risk to public health. A recent study by the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology determined that Spice has similar negative health effects as cannabis consumption.
If Spice were considered a schedule I substance, this would assist law enforcement in addressing this growing problem. Additionally, I am aware that the Drug Enforcement Administration and participating Utah law enforcement agencies in the Rocky Mountain HIDTA are working together to formulate an action plan to address Spice abuse in Utah. I believe that an emergency scheduling would be a great help in addressing and suppressing what is essentially legalized marijuana distribution.
Thank you for your consideration in these matters.
cc: Attorney General Eric Holder
ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske