Is Spice legal?

Some Spice ingredients are legal in the U.S. Others are illegal. More on the legal status of Spice here.

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More than 140 different Spice products have been identified to date.

Some are legal.

Some are not.

Here, we review the current legal environment for Spice and its ingredients. We invite your feedback at the end. Please send us questions about Spice, its use, side effects or legal status here. We will respond to all legitimate questions about Spice with a personal and prompt message.

What’s in Spice?

What’s in Spice drug? The psychoactive chemicals in Spice are known as synthetic cannabinoids.   Synthetic cannabinoids stimulate the same brain receptors as marijuana and can produces a similar high. Sometimes, Spice mixtures contain a few cannabinoids. Other times, a Spice package may contain dozens. Some of the commonly known compounds used in Spice blends include:

  • CP- 47,497
  • HU-210
  • HU-211
  • JWH-018
  • JWH-073

How do people make Spice?

Spice makers usually buy synthetic cannabinoid compounds from labs in Asia as cheap raw materials, dissolve the compounds in a solvent, spray the solution onto herbal mixtures, and then evaporate the solvent before packaging the products. The ingredients used to make Spice can vary, and the results could have dangerous effects on your body and brain. Some mixtures even contain harmful metal residues.

How does Spice work in the brain?

Spice ingredients act as either CB1 or CB2 agonists or partial agonists and produce similar effects as THC. Can legal bud get you high?  Yes.

Is Spice legal?

Spice ingredients are banned in many European countries. And some ingredients are now federally banned in the U.S. In March 2011, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) passed an emergency scheduling authority to control five chemicals frequently found in Spice. In the U.S. it is now illegal to possess or sell products that contain:

  1. cannabicyclohexanol
  2. CP-47,497
  3. JWH-018
  4. JWH-073
  5. JWH-200

These synthetic cannabinoids are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision. As a result of this order, the full effect of the Controlled Substances Act and its implementing regulations of Schedule I substances will be imposed on the manufacture, distribution, possession, importation, and exportation of these synthetic cannabinoids.

The temporary scheduling action will remain in effect for at least one year (with a 6 month extension possible) while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.

Furthermore, many states have either passed bills or are in the process of passing legislation that controls or prohibits Spice and/or synthetic cannabinoids. And the use of Spice and related products is prohibited throughout the U.S. military services.

Does Spice show up on drug tests?

No and yes. Spice does not show up on drug screens for THC, the psychoactive compound of marijuana. However, there is a new generation of urine and blood tests which accurately identify Spice compounds. These tests are commercially available and aim to be cheaper and more extensively used in the near future.

Should Spice be illegal?

Spice has the ability to induce strong cannabis-like psychoactive effects. But Spice has become popular because it is readily available on the Internet, still legal in many countries, marketed as natural safe substances, and undetectable by conventional drug screening tests. What will it take to make all Spice ingredients illegal? And can legality be enforced when the ingredients in Spice can be chemically changed?

Your input, comments and opinion are welcomed.

Reference sources: NIDA Info Facts on Spice
U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control – “The Dangers of Synthetic Cannabinoids and Stimulants”
EU report: Understanding the Spice phenomenon
DEA News Release: Chemicals Used in “Spice” and “K2” Type Products Now Under Federal Control and Regulation
Utah State legislation review of Spice
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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