Sidestepping the Synthetic Drug Ban

Chemists are already finding ways to circumvent a new federal law cracking down on marijuana and methamphetamine mimics.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Jul 16, 2012

A new federal ban on chemicals that mimic the biological effects of the active compounds in illegal drugs like marijuana and methamphetamine is already being rendered obsolete by chemists developing new substances that aren't covered by the law. Signed by President Barack Obama earlier this month, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 focuses mainly on synthetic cannabinoids, which are found in products like "Spice" and "K2," but also covers a class of synthetic psychedelics and a couple of ingredients in synthetic stimulants, known as bath salts.

But the chemists behind the development of these synthetic drugs are moving at a faster pace than the legislative branch of the US government, rapidly developing new classes of chemicals, many of which weren't on the radar screens of legislators crafting the bill. "There are several compounds out there now, in mixtures that I’ve tested myself, that would not fall under this...

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