The Drug Enforcement Administration responded to concerns over synthetic drug products by temporarily designating five chemicals used in “fake pot” as Schedule I substances in March. With that, possessing or selling those chemicals or the products that contain them is illegal.
The chemicals — JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497 and cannabicyclohexanol — are typically added to dried plants of some sort for products marketed as incense.
There are synthetic products designed to imitate controlled substances — marketed as incense and bath salts — and manufacturers can be quick to adapt around banned compounds and change formulas just enough to stay legal, according to The Associated Press.
Synthetic marijuana products include “K2” and “Spice,” which are sold online and in some Santa Barbara smoke shops packaged as incense. Many websites openly sell Spice and/or K2 products, but many at least acknowledge the DEA’s ruling and say their products contain no DEA-banned substances. As well as reportedly providing a high, synthetic products don’t usually show up in urine drug tests.
Physiological effects can include paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness, while the products also have caused increased heart rate and blood pressure in users, according to the DEA.
“Emergency room physicians report that individuals that use these types of products experience serious side effects which include convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting and disorientation,” it reported.
According to the AP, there’s been an increase in users seeking medical attention and calling Poison Control Centers as well.
Members of the Milpas Community Association have repeatedly stopped into SB Tobacco, at 11 S. Milpas St., to ask the owners to stop selling it, Executive Director Sharon Byrne said. It’s stored under the counter, and when a Noozhawk reporter inquired about it, the employee pulled out a plastic tub with perhaps 50 small, $10 paper packets of “Happy Tiger” and a box filled with Posh brand “Premium” and “Purple Haze” containers of product priced at $12.99.
Byrne said she has gone in multiple times to ask about Spice, then asked why the store continues to sell it after the DEA banned the five chemicals. She said an employee told her the store wasn’t notified by the DEA and would continue selling it.
They remember her, asking if the reporter worked for the city before pulling out the boxes from behind the counter.
The products are marketed as incense and state they are “not for human consumption.” Sold in small quantities, the packages claim to be “JWH-free” but don’t include any information about ingredients. The Posh products don’t include any usage information, while the paper packets state they’re for “aromatherapy use only.”
Noozhawk also checked in with two other local smoke shops, both of which sell varieties of “Spice.”
A clerk at Dementia Smokers Gallery, 2003 State St., said the store carried two brands of “Spice,” varying in potency. A worker at Vishions Smoke Shop, 2939 De la Vina St., also said the store sold “Spice,” but was reticent to give more details over the phone about the type of products sold.
Capt. Armando Martel said the Santa Barbara Police Department is looking into the matter. Lt. Paul McCaffrey cautioned that many of the drugs for sale may not have all of their ingredients listed on their packaging and could potentially be dangerous.
“You buy things online and from other places, but you don’t know what you’re getting,” he said.
On a local level, McCaffrey said he’s heard about use of the drugs after people have purchased them online, but he wasn’t aware of a city storefront selling them.
“It’s not surprising that a store can get it,” he said, but added that there is little accountability about the safety of the product from online suppliers.