The ban is an "emergency schedule," meaning it's temporary -- it will last 12 months while the DEA tests the spice chemicals to gather data for a permanent scheduling.
The temporary ban could be extended an additional six months. Ultimately, certain chemical compounds used in spice, a.k.a. "synthetic marijuana," could be added to the same federal drug schedule as cocaine and heroin.
Spice has already been banned in 15 states, but has been widely available and legal to purchase as various "herbal incense" brands elsewhere, including Arizona. Its sale and use has increased since being introduced into the head shop market about two years ago, despite media reports about spice's bad side effects. (For more on the synthetic chemicals in spice and herbal incense, check out our feature, "High Science.")
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Herbal incense blends -- dried plant matter sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid powders -- have been immensely popular because of their reported high and legality. The DEA has listed several chemical compounds found in spice blends as "drugs and chemicals of concern" for more than a year, but Wednesday's announcement marks a nationwide ban.
DEA spokeswoman Michele Lionheart said the temporary ban "Will call further attention to the risks of ingesting unknown compounds and will hopefully take away any incentive to try these products."
Once the ban goes into effect, head shops and retailers in the United States will be forbidden from selling herbal incense blends containing the banned compounds.
The ban will begin by December 24, just in time for Christmas.