BOISE -- Spice, a substance sold as incense but sometimes smoked to get high, is just one signature away from being temporarily banned in the state of Idaho.
Thursday morning, the state Board of Pharmacy voted to add the chemicals found in Spice to the same category of drugs as marijuana, making it illegal. The board's decision still requires the governor's signature to go into effect. Gov. Butch Otter's office tells KTVB he is likely to sign the temporary ruling Friday or early next week.
The Board of Pharmacymet Thursday to lookat temporarily adding the chemicals found in many varieties of Spice to the state's list of illegal drugs. After an hour of presentations and deliberation, board members decided creating a ban, at least temporarily, on Spice was in the interest of public safety.
In a conference call, the Board of Pharmacy heard from two sides: Those who want to make Spice illegal, and those who don't.
Misuse and adverse effects
The Office of Drug Policy says although Spice might be sold as incense, there is evidence people are smoking the substance.
The drug is marketed as incense right now in our communities. It's stated not for human consumption, but it is sold to smoke. And when purchasing it, it's fairly clear that that's the intent, Sharon Burke, Office of Drug Policy said.
The Office of Drug Policy says those people who misuse Spice are suffering adverse health effects, and board members expressed concern over that information.
I think we have to be proactive with this drug, Board of Pharmacy Chairman Holly Henggeler said. Whether those selling have the intent, it's obviously being misused and causing harm.
A former user told the board he had suffered physical and mental side effects from Spice and believes it should be illegal.
All I wanted was my spice and I wanted to get high on it. That's all I wanted, Former Spice user and drug court participant Cody [last name not given] said. I didn't care about family, friends. I didn't care about my life or what happened. All I wanted to do was get high.
Spice sellers want moreregulation, not criminalization
Sellers and manufacturers of Spice and their attorney argue that many people use Spice for its intended purpose of burning as incense for aromatherapy and say there is minor evidence of abuse. They added they would like to see regulation in the form of age restriction and education, not by making Spice illegal.
We were willing to move the age up in most stores to 19 years old to get away from high schoolers who were 18, Ryan Holdaway, attorney for Spice sellers and manufacturers said. We were willing to do literature, websites that show the appropriate methods of use as well as to warn against the dangers of use. To remove the most potent products off of the shelf, or at least decrease the availability, the amount that could be sold.
Some Spice would still be legal
Mark Ciccarello owns several Herb Incense Spice stores. Right now, his doors are still open, and he plans to keep them that way.
There's nothing signed. The governor hasn't signed it. We don't know when it's going to be. Until then, we'll just conduct business as normal. Afterwards, we'll see based on what the law states, Ciccarello said.
As the language is right now, seven specific chemicals will be considered illegal drugs. Though Ciccarello says the most popular types of Spice contain those seven, there are more types of Spice that have chemicals not listed.
The Board of Pharmacy said it's aware of that possible problem.
As an agency, we're never going to be able to make laws, illegalize [sic]things as fast as other people can find something new to get high on and it's frustrating, Board of Pharmacy board member Nicki Chopski said.
Banning Spice couldcreate more dangerous, underground market
Another concern for many in the meeting is the product being unregulated and underground.
With Spice, at least the ones existing now, we at least have a limited idea of their impacts on individuals, Holdaway said. The new product line that's going to come out to get around this law, we won't know that. So, really what I think is the ironic twist to this is they've increased the danger to public safety, rather than preserve it.
Board members expressed some concern that making Spice illegal may force the substance into an unregulated, underground market, but ultimately decided the public health risk was a greater concern.
Ultimately it doesn't take the product completely off the market. People will look for things to get high regardless of where they have to go to look, Chopski said. The flip side of that is that does that mean we just throw up our hands in the air and say well we can't stop it so we shouldn't do anything? Probably not.
Only a temporary ruling; legislature would likely take up issue
The decision is temporary and if the governor approves, will last through the end of the next legislative session. The Board of Pharmacy indicated lawmakers are likely to propose a bill that would permanently outlaw Spice at the beginning of the session in January.
Otter's office said Thursday eveningthe governorwill likely sign the ruling in the next few days.
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