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Calls to ban legal high ‘Spice’

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 Calls to ban legal high ‘Spice’

There are calls to ban a synthetic form of cannabis, known as Spice, which is currently legal but considered dangerous as the active ingredient is thought to be four or five times stronger than the real drug.

Spice has already been banned in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and even the Netherlands where the smoking of cannabis is widely tolerated and accepted.

However the sale of the herbal mix, which is widely sold on the internet and in some “head shops”, is currently under review by the Home Office.

Spice contains the ingredient JWH-018, a cannabinoid receptor, which was originally produced for research purposes in 1995.

Since then it has been produced on a large scale in China to be sold commercially after the demand for the mixture soared in the past year.

Christian Steup from THC Pharm, a German company that makes legal painkillers from cannabis, said the substance was four to five times more potent than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis.

However stronger sachets of Spice could be twice as powerful as cannabis, because ounce for ounce it is far stronger.

Psychiatrists have become increasingly concerned about the long term use of cannabis, after a number of studies have linked its use to depression.

Professor David Nutt, chairman of the ACMD, said: “Spice and other synthetic cannabinoid products are being sold legally as harmless ‘herbal legal highs’.

“However, the herbal content is coated in one or more dangerous chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cannabis.

“These are not harmless herbal alternatives and have been found to cause paranoia and panic attacks.”

However, the effects of JWH-018 on the human mind have yet to be determined.

Under Review

Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has said that a decision regarding the classification of Spice will be made by the end of the month. It is expected to be made Class B alongside cannabis.

Furthermore, a spokesperson from the Home Office has confirmed that Spice is under review by the Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

He said: “The ACMD has kept Spice under review and will be briefed on Spice at its next meeting of its Technical Committee.

“The Home Office is monitoring the use of Spice both in this country and elsewhere in the EU. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction has been monitoring its use since the end of 2007 and intend to hold a briefing session on it for experts during the Spring, in which the UK will participate.”

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