DEA Announces Nationwide Ban on Spice, a.k.a. "Synthetic Marijuana"

People who smoke herbal incense blends commonly known as "spice" to get high had one less thing to be thankful about this Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration announced that within 30 days, five chemical compounds used in spice will be federally banned.

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.


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.")

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.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.