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November 24, 2009

The Federal Government Follows the Lead of 17 States to Ban K2

The DEA plans to temporarily ban synthetic cannabinoids within 30 days. 

The U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today its plan to issue an emergency ban to temporarily control five synthetic cannabinoids that are used to make “fake pot” products. 

These products are commonly known as “Spice,” “K2” or “Genie,” and are drawing attention in state capitols across the country. There have been reports linking use of these drugs to hallucinations, seizures and even death. Lawmakers are acting quickly to curb the growing availability and use of these substances by passing laws to designate certain synthetic cannabinoids as schedule I controlled substances and outlaw their possession or distribution.

Kansas was the first state to pass legislation this year banning synthetic cannabinoids. Ten other state legislatures have passed similar measures making it illegal to possess, use, manufacture or sell the substances. Bills are pending in at least four other states. 

This new federal control ban will make possessing and selling these chemicals or products that contain the synthetic cannabinoids illegal for at least one year while the DEA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals and products should be permanently banned. The federal ban is slated to go into effect in fewer than 30 days.

Amidst the federal ban, state legislators continue to move forward with plans to introduce legislation to ban synthetic cannabinoids during the 2011 legislative sessions.

In addition, at least six state agencies in Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, North Dakota and Oregon have also taken measures to outlaw these drugs. The Hawaii Narcotics Enforcement Division, for example, applied an emergency ban on “chemicals in Spice/K2.” The ban is temporary, pending action by the Hawaii Legislature in the 2011 session.

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemically engineered substances, similar to THC—the active ingredient in marijuana—that, when smoked or ingested, can produce a high similar to marijuana. Initially developed for research related to treatment of pain and the effects of cannabis on the brain, these substances have recently become a popular alternative to marijuana. They are sprayed onto dried herbs and sold legally in local convenience stores and on the Internet.

For more information on state actions to ban synthetic cannabinoids, please contact NCSL.


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.