The government's drug advisory board is calling for action on "legal highs" containing synthetic cannabinoids.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended a ban in a report it has just sent to the Home Office, called "Consideration of the major cannabinoid agonists". It focussed on the brand 'Spice' - which has already been banned in France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
The mixture, sold as a smoking blend, is a mixture of herbs which are sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. The mixture also contains large amounts of Vitamin E, possibly to make detection of the additives more difficult. Reports as to its effectiveness vary widely - drugs information site Erowid has users reporting: "This drug is legal for a reason. It's basically cannabis, minus the fun." while others claimed unpleasant paranoia.
Because of the likelihood that other cannabinoids could be used in place of any which were banned, the ACMD calls for a generic ban to control such substances. Manufacturers could easily move more quickly than legislation seeking to ban the specific ingredients of such mixtures. But they do name five substances which should be specifically controlled.
The ACMD recommends that these mixtures be classified and controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act because they have potential harms commensurate with cannabis. The ACMD makes four recommendations - the fourth of which: "has been withheld on the ground that its publication would not be in the public interest."
The Home Office has yet to respond to the report but told us: "We are determined to crack down on those so called 'legal highs' that pose a significant health risk.
"We will publish our response shortly, along with the proposed controls for a range of other substances, including GBL."
Let's not forget that Jacqui Smith ignored ACMD advice on actual, real cannabis in 2008 and also promised action on stopping the sale of cannabis related items like pipes, bongs and other paraphernalia. Which, should it ever happen, won't leave much but tie-dyed T-shirts and incense for head shops to sell.
Spice is available in several varieties and costs £20 for 3 grams, about the same as an eighth of real weed in the UK... apparently.
The report summary is available here. ®