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The Drug Enforcement Administration announced last Wednesday that it would use its emergency powers to ban synthetic marijuana for one year.

The synthetic weed, known as “K2” or “spice” and generally sold in head shops, is popular among police officers, members of the military and others looking to avoid failing a drug test, said one hemp store owner who sells the product. The high from marijuana is created by its main active ingredient THC, but also by the plant’s several dozen poorly understood cannabinoids. The DEA had banned any drug containing natural or synthetic THC, but has not addressed the cannabinoids. K2 has been legal because it uses synthetic versions of the cannabinoids rather than THC; because drug tests look for THC, users could smoke spice and not get caught by supervisors. But because it doesn’t include THC, it gives users a different, lesser high than real pot. Because it has not been carefully studied, there is no certainty over whether it is as safe as marijuana. It is often labeled as incense and contains warnings against human consumption.

Just as the threatened ban on the caffeinated booze drink Four Loko caused a run on convenience stores, the DEA’s announcement about K2’s impending ban threatens to send hordes of consumers to water pipe outposts, as users will have 30 days to hoard the fake drug before the ban goes into place. “A Notice of Intent to Temporarily Control was published in the Federal Register today to alert the public to this action,” the DEA announced in a statement. “After no fewer than 30 days, DEA will publish in the Federal Register a Final Rule to Temporarily Control these chemicals for at least 12 months with the possibility of a six-month extension. They will be designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category, which is reserved for unsafe, highly abused substances with no medical usage.”

A Schedule I listing would put it in a more restrictive category than cocaine.

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