Pubdate: Wed, 10 Nov 2010
Source: Fayetteville Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2010 Fayetteville Observer


For many soldiers - and plenty of civilians too - Spice is nice. For
military commanders and some concerned legislators, it's anything but.
That's why the designer drug that mimics the effect of marijuana has
been banned on Fort Bragg and soldiers face random testing for its

State Sen. William Purcell, a Laurinburg Democrat and retired
pediatrician, says he may introduce legislation next year to ban the
product, widely sold as incense in tobacco shops and convenience
stores, also under names such as K2, Funky Monkey and Afghan Kush.

The synthetic marijuana was developed by chemists to affect the same
brain receptors as marijuana, producing a similar euphoria. Most Spice
is manufactured in China or Korea. It has been banned in some states
and European countries.

There is no research into the long-term effects of Spice and similar
designer drugs. It's unknown if there are dangers inherent in its use,
other than the obvious ones that accompany intoxication.

Fort Bragg was right to ban the use of Spice and similar drugs. The
reasons why soldiers' brains should be unimpaired by intoxicants are

But we're not so sure a state ban would be effective, despite Sen.
Purcell's concern that, "If the state doesn't say anything, that just
tells people it's OK."

Authorities' experience in Europe is that as a synthetic drug is
banned, chemists slightly alter its molecular structure and market it
under a new name. Sophisticated pharmaceutical chemists can do that,
easily. We can expect the same here.

Perhaps this is the time for legislators and other leaders to take a
dispassionate look at the nation's long-running, mostly failed war on
drugs. State and federal governments have spent hundreds of billions
of dollars since the 1970s trying to shut down the flow of illegal
recreational drugs. It's mostly been a waste of money, a campaign
that's had as much success as an earlier generation had enforcing the
18th Amendment - Prohibition.

We're not suggesting repeal of existing drug laws here, although the
concept is worthy of some discussion in a society concerned about
government intrusion into people's private lives.

Rather, we're suggesting a pragmatic approach. Banning a drug like
Spice will probably be akin to playing Whac-A-Mole - as soon as the
current version is illegal, a slightly altered variant will go on
sale. Meanwhile, the cost of legislating and enforcing keeps rising.

Is this the place where we draw the line? We hope our legislators have
that thoughtful conversation. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake