The vote means head shops, which specialize in articles of interest to drug users, will soon have to remove products containing certain synthetic cannabinoids from their shelves.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Nov. 24 announced it will use its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily make five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana products illegal. Products including chemicals JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47, 497 and cannabicyclohexanol will be illegal in the United States after Dec. 24. The DEA then has one year, with the possibility of a six-month extension, to determine whether the chemicals should remain illegal.
At its meeting Thursday in Reno, the Board of Pharmacy voted to move forward with enacting state codes that mirror the DEA’s, which would make manufacturing and selling those same five chemicals illegal and enforceable under the Nevada Administrative Code.
A public hearing on the matter will take place during the next board meeting, slated for Jan. 11 and 12 in Las Vegas, said Diane Machen of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Science Division.
Machen said the chemicals likely will be labeled as contraband in Nevada within the next few months. Anyone caught selling products containing the chemicals after Dec. 24 will be in violation of federal law, she said.
The county’s Forensic Science Division has been working closely with the state Board of Pharmacy to identify which synthetic cannabinoids were being sold in Nevada. Machen said the lab so far has identified two of the five chemicals in products being sold in the state, JWH-018 and JWH-073, but she suspects the other chemicals also are in Nevada.
Larry Pinson, executive secretary for the state Board of Pharmacy, said he expects new chemicals to appear after the five chemicals are labeled as controlled substances.
“As new ones appear, we will have to go through this same process and we will add them (to the schedule of controlled substances),” Pinson said.
The difficulty with defining a drug as a controlled substance is first being able to identify it, Pinson said.
Machen said even once the substance is identified, it takes time to develop the testing mechanisms necessary to enforce a ban of the drug.
Laboratories use primary reference materials for chemical composition analysis, and right now there are no primary reference materials available for testing, Machen said.
Once labs are able to test products for certain chemicals, additional tests must be developed to detect the chemicals in blood, she said.
Synthetic marijuana products are sold all over Reno and Sparks in smoke shops and head shops, but most products are labeled as “incense.”
“They’re not supposed to smoke it,” said Mike Weiss, manager of JJ’s Urban Decay on Rock Boulevard.
Weiss also said what customers do with the product once they get it home is their business.
Smoke-N-Head Shop on West Fifth Street in Reno advertises on its website that it sells K2, one of the products the DEA has identified as containing potentially harmful chemicals. A store representative denied over the phone — before hanging up — that the shop has been selling products that contain the soon-to-be-illegal chemicals.
According to a DEA fact sheet, “K2 or ‘Spice’ is a mixture of herbs and spices that is typically sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana. The chemical compounds typically include HU-210, HU-211, JWH-018, and JWH-073.”
A representative from The Melting Pot World Emporium on Virginia Street said the store has been selling the “incense,” but will remove it from shelves by Dec. 20. Some shops, such as JJ’s, worry that being forced to remove the products will affect sales. Weiss said JJ’s is closing because of the loss of sales from with the ban.
The Melting Pot representative, however, was not concerned.
“We were doing OK before it came along,” she said. “We will continue to do OK when it is gone.”
The emergency categorizing of the chemicals as illegal comes as a result of nationwide reports the DEA has received since 2009 from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding the products.
Machen said one of the biggest concerns is harm users might inflict on themselves or others while ingesting these drugs.
“Impaired judgment is what would cause your demise,” Machen said.
Carolyn Cramer, legal counsel for the Board of Pharmacy, said one local family feels the suicide of their son was due, at least in part, to using “fake weed.”
Jacqui Theologitis lost her 21-year-old son, Alex Bautista, when he committed suicide in October. Since his death, Theologitis has learned her son had recently started ingesting fake weed, which she blames for the visual and auditory hallucinations her son was having before he shot himself.