The DEA has many tools available to it in its investigations of suspected drug crimes. Last week, the DEA demonstrated one of its more powerful tools, its emergency power. It used this power to place a temporary ban on a product called synthetic marijuana. Due to this ban, this product is now subject to federal drug possession and trafficking laws.
Synthetic marijuana describes a group of chemicals which are designed to simulate the effects of the drug. The substances were being sold by some stores in the U.S. as incense. Synthetic marijuana was not previously illegal under federal law. Also, most states have not made the compounds illegal under state drug laws.
The DEA announced that, starting in a month, five of the most common synthetic marijuana chemicals would be now be illegal to sell or possess under federal law.
The DEA used their emergency power to put this ban on synthetic marijuana in place. The emergency power allows the DEA to take temporary measures regarding a substance when the public health is at risk. The DEA justified the use of the emergency measures on the grounds that they had received numerous reports of health risks connected to synthetic marijuana.
The current ban is only temporary. DEA officials claimed they used their emergency power instead of a permanent ban because an emergency ban could be put into enforcement faster. During the temporary ban, the DEA will continue to research the banned compounds, and will likely pursue a more permanent ban.
This demonstrates how much power in the area of drug crimes the DEA wields through its use of emergency measures. This power provides them with a way to ban a substance nationwide in a remarkably quick fashion. And while it only is allowed as a temporary measure, it allows the DEA time to pursue more permanent means of banning a substance. That is how a drug can go from legal to illegal in a month.
Source: The Associated Press, "US cracks down on fake pot as public health hazard," (Article no longer available online) 24 Nov 2010