Debate Forum Topic – 12/01/10

Ohio Legislator Moves to Ban the Sale of Synthetic Marijuana

State Rep. Margaret Ruhl, a state lawmaker from Mount Vernon, Ohio, is the sponsor of legislation that would outlaw the sale or possession of a type of synthetic marijuana in Ohio. That legislation, if enacted into law, would classify the synthetic substance now legally sold in convenience stores, smoke stores and other businesses under names such as “Spice” or “K2” as a Schedule I controlled substance. At the present time, Spice is legal in most states in the U.S.

Synthetic cannabis is an herbal and chemical product which mimics the effects of  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_(drug)” \o “Cannabis (drug)” cannabis. It is best known by the brand names K2 HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_marijuana” \l “cite_note-0#cite_note-0” and Spice. Synthetic cannabis (Spice) products first appeared in Europe in 2004.There are now a number of competing brand names, all of which are variations on Spice. Spice is marketed as incense and all products contain a warning label that reads “Not for human consumption.” However, Spice has a growing base of supporters who argue that it is a harmless and sensible marijuana alternative.

Synthetic cannabis is claimed by the manufacturers to contain a mixture of traditionally used medicinal herbs, each of which supposedly produces mild effects with the overall blend resulting in the cannabis-like intoxication produced by the product. Herbs listed on the packaging of Spice include Canavalia maritimaNymphaea caeruleaScutellaria nanaPedicularis densifloraLeonotis leonurusZornia latifoliaNelumbo nuciferaLeonurus sibiricus.

The developing synthetic industry is attempting to avoid the laws which make cannabis illegal, while at the same time providing the same results as marijuana.  When synthetic cannabis products first went on sale, it was thought that they achieved an effect through a mixture of only legal herbs.

However, an analysis by German laboratories in 2008 found that many of the characteristic “fingerprint” molecules expected to be present from the claimed plant ingredients were not present. Instead, there were also large amounts of synthetic  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tocopherol” \o “Tocopherol” tocopherol 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 Nov. 2008 was unable to conclude exactly what ingredients were in the product, and where the synthetic tocopherol had come from.

No official studies have been conducted on its effects on humans. Though its effects are not well documented, there are anecdotal reports that extremely large doses may cause negative effects that are generally not noted in marijuana users, such as increased agitation and vomiting. Representative Ruhl, a Republican, says Spice is dangerous and reports that the product has made some high school  HYPERLINK “http://www.local12.com/news/state/story/Ohio-State-Lawmaker-Wants-To-Ban-Synthetic/ZwHwPlF2VkiPHTc7ZMU6tg.cspx” \l “#” \t “_blank” students from her area and many others ill are what motivated her to bring the legislation forward.

Forum Question:

Should Ohio ban the sale of synthetic cannabis products such as Spice?

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