Synthetic Cannabinoids | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 5 | p. 6 | Letters
Issue Date: January 31, 2010

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Department: Letters

On Nov. 23, 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced its intention to designate a number of synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule 1 substances. This step follows the action of a great number of state legislatures scheduling these compounds both specifically and generally as, for example “all cannabinoids.” The action was taken because of the rising use of “spice” as a legal alternative to marijuana. Spice is a concoction of vegetable matter and the active synthetic, largely produced in China.

I do not advocate the recreational use of chemicals, beyond a good single malt. However, Schedule 1 means that there is no medicinal value for this class of compounds. These compounds have been developed over 40 years both in academia and in big pharma by hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists to treat a range of conditions from glaucoma to prostate cancer. These legislators across the U.S., and now DEA, are legislating that this entire area of research has no redeeming value without ever having investigated either the science behind it or the benefits this work was designed to bring. The fact that some legislation covers anything describable as a cannabinoid mimic indicates that the legislation is based on hysteria, not science. Missouri, in its haste to schedule these materials, inadvertently also scheduled phenol and indole with a poorly written description.

Before we allow our legislators to destroy people’s lives when caught with something of unproven harm, we should demand that scheduling legislation be based on scientific data, and as the result of a scientific advisory panel. At most, the cannabinoids should be Schedule 2, where many of the useful drugs are. If we don’t control our legislators here, they will go on to irrationally schedule other classes of therapeutic research based on political pressure.H. L. Mencken once defined a puritan as a person who lives with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun. I think I know where we have a high concentration of puritans.

William Boulanger
Mahomet, Ill.

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