District of Columbia Classifies Synthetic Pot As Schedule I Drug

By McCarton Ackerman 10/17/14

Synthetic weed like K2 and Spice is now in the same category as heroin and crack cocaine. At least in D.C.

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Washington, D.C. has taken a bold stance in its attempt to stamp out synthetic marijuana use by labeling it as a Schedule I drug.

The new classification means that synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice and K2, is now in the same category as heroin and crack cocaine. Those caught making, distributing, or importing the drug will face the same criminal charges and imprisonment as with any other Schedule I drug.

“These substances are gaining increased prevalence among youth and unsuspecting adults,” said D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Joxel Garcia. “We must be diligent and proactive if we are to stop the flow of harmful drugs to the marketplace and finding its way to our children.”

Although the federal government outlawed synthetic marijuana in 2011, it had still been relatively easy to find at convenience stores and head shops. Part of this was due to the way it was advertised on packaging as “potpourri,” among other code names. Synthetic marijuana makers have been able to skirt around legal issues by using substances in their products that produced a high, but weren’t banned yet by the government.

The D.C. Department of Health was widely panned for its anti-synthetic marijuana campaign known as K2 Zombie DC, complete with the slogan “Danger: Fake Weed + U = Zombie.” The campaign suggested that the drug produced zombie-like symptoms in users including hallucination, paranoia, and seizures, but highlighted this with a series of painfully cheesy zombie costume shots in posters for the initiative.

Last July, 19-year-old Connor Eckherdt passed away after smoking synthetic marijuana and ultimately slipping into a coma with brain swelling. “These substances are not benign,” said Dr. Andrew Monte. “You can buy designer drugs of abuse at convenience stores and on the Internet. People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be—up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.