The United States Congress has just passed a bill to ban ‘legal marijuana’ incense products and ‘bath salts’ stimulants – a legal move which, possibly for the first time, prohibits substances based on their action in the brain and not solely their chemical structure.
Due to the varied nature of cannabinoids, and the fact that semi-legit labs seem to be producing new variations at a remarkable rate, the bill uses quite a wide definition.
The bill (pdf here) specifically prohibits “cannabimimetic agents”, defined as:
…any substance that is a cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) agonist as demonstrated by binding studies and functional assays within any of the following structural classes…
and any preparation
…which contains any quantity of cannabimimetic agents, or which contains their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers…
In other words, the definition includes a general class of compounds and possible chemical variations that have a specific action in the brain – namely binding to the CB1 receptor.
This is, as far as I know, the first attempt to ban a specific brain function.
The safety is these drugs is still largely unknown, however. Although most were developed many years ago they’ve never been scientifically tested in humans and current research is limited to a few case reports or small studies.
There have certainly been deaths and bad reactions but as we have almost no information on how widespread the use of these drug is we really have no idea about the relative risks.