American love of marijuana is inexhaustible. With every attempt to eradicate use of the plant, entrepreneurs invent novel plans to fill the market gap. To this point, the focus has mostly been on simply distributing the drug illegally. It’s common knowledge that prohibition has created organized crime, black markets, dangerous transactions, hostile neighborhoods; the list goes on.
In the past, creative minds were heavily limited by available resources. The average citizen, regardless of education and knowledge, did not possess the ability to purchase illicit-drug precursors, or foreign chemicals. If it was at all possible it was only through large manufacturing plants, and would require a great deal of capital and risk. Now, with the advent of the internet and a global distribution network, the times have changed.
Today unique chemicals are continuously concocted, available to nearly anyone in the world with internet access and a valid postal address. They can be consumed by humans to produce experiences analogous to nearly any drug in existence. The substances are developed at such a rapid rate that it is nearly impossible for law agencies to even know of their existence, let alone prosecute them consistently.
And they have a catch. Evidenced by the popular name “research chemicals,” they are untested and effects mostly unknown. In fact, there have been a number of deaths related to research chemicals. Sometimes the chemicals themselves were simply unsafe, and occasionally something as simple as the wrong customer receiving the wrong batch is to blame.
A few of the powders are physically active in such miniscule doses, they require a sub-milligram scale to weigh out properly. These can run in the thousands of dollars, which the average consumer does not have access to. In lieu of seeking milligram or microgram scales, they will simply try to “eyeball” doses – that is, judge a dose by its appearance.
For an idea of a milligram, reference that speck of dust on your monitor. Now consider that a single speck of extra dust can be the difference between overdose and the desired effect. The symptoms associated with overdosing can be as innocuous as an uncomfortable experience, as strange as blue knees (in the case of recently-scheduled mephedrone), or so dangerous as to cause brain damage, organ failure and a host of possibly deadly complications, depending on the chemical.
Active and potent in low milligram ranges, the JWH series is and was the most popular of the synthetic cannabinoids. It was the most common active ingredient in the popular synthetic weed blends, K2 and Spice. There are many versions of the compound, but only a few main variants were popularly used. Just a few months ago, JWH-018, JWH-073 and JWH-200 could still be found in dozens of faux-marijuana blends.
On November 24th, 2010, the DEA banned those three syntheses, along with a substance known as CP-47,497 and another called cannabicyclohexanol. This prompted a chain reaction of fire-sales from vendors and bulk purchases by consumers. As expected, states began dropping one by one with their own more enforceable regulations, with the last states finally falling in the late summer.
Vendors will not take the risk of sending clearly scheduled, illicit drugs through the mail. These are semi-legitimate businesses that can be located through a simple google search. While there are sellers to be found online stocking everything from marijuana, LSD, heroin and more, they can only be accessed with invitations through special encryption programs. It may not seem to the layman that there’s much difference between an analogue and a scheduled drug, but legally it’s night and day.
United States drug law is incredibly convoluted, and even the most knowledgeable law minds in the world cannot come to a consensus on certain facets. One of such disagreements is the controversial “Federal Analogue Act.” The act is an ambiguous addition to drug scheduling, allowing for the prosecution of people in possession of any chemical which shares “effects” or a structure “substantially similar to the chemical structure of a controlled substance in schedule I or II.”
So since they’re as illegal as their analogues, logically they’ve lost their purpose and incentive, right? Well, not exactly. Before scheduling, research chemicals are in what is commonly referred to as “the gray area.” Their charges will not likely stand up in court, so nobody bothers prosecuting for them. Courts require explicit chemical names to be prohibited to successfully enforce the law. Of course, there are literally thousands of different chemical compounds that can replicate the effects of THC. So while scheduling 5 of the most popular synthetic cannabinoids may seem important, there are now simply 10 others in their place; newer and even less researched than before.
Mimicking marijuana gives an instant profit margin in the underground gray market. Popularized by grassroots advertisements promising the ability to skirt drug tests and legal ramifications, sales of weed-like chemicals have boomed. Before the bans, residents from states with strict cannabis regulations were buying powders and blends faster than suppliers could stock them. Drug offenders on probation, hopeful applicants for jobs requiring drug tests, members of the military, and average people looking to avoid the stigma of drug use all looked to the chemicals.
What sellers neglect to mention is the complete lack of history, research and quality control, leaving buyers in completely unknown territory. Buying blends is even worse, as the active ingredients are not even mentioned. So, as is customary with the drug war, the strict prohibition of safe drugs like marijuana has had an inverse affect on public health.
American politicians must make no mistake, the popularity of gray market drugs is directly due to the social and legal costs of their black market counterparts. By archaic punishments for drug use and possession, the government has directly forced prospective users to turn to market alternatives. By spreading propaganda and misinforming their constituents, they have created a culture which arbitrarily stigmatizes certain drug use.
All of those ingredients combined allow for the ultimate loss of privacy, freedom, civil liberty, justice and overall confidence in our society. The responsibility for every loss of life due to a research chemical should fall squarely on the shoulders of heavy-handed politicians. It is due to their actions alone that users were forced to turn to unregulated, untested and unverifiable substances to fuel their recreational hobby.
Our vision for the future should not include drug-conditional employment, more obscure and wildly unsafe substances and wasted efforts on a completely unsustainable and – more importantly – impossible effort. It should not include deaths, hospitalizations and addictions to substances that may or may not be what the user thought it was to begin with. The realization has to be made that drug education, treatment and regulation are the key to a safe, sane society. Anything less will result in nothing more than pure chaos.
Disclaimer: These opinions and statements made in these posts are solely the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinion of 420 Petition and its parent company.