DEA Places 6 Synthetic Cannabinoids on Schedule I

The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the US flag, on 26th March 2018. The FBI is the domestic intelligence and security service of the US.
Illustration: chrisdorney / Shutterstock

WASHINGTON – Citing “imminent hazard to public safety,” the Drug Enforcement Administration temporarily placed six synthetic cannabinoids on Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive classification reserved for drugs that have no accepted medical use and are subject to abuse. The initial classification period lasts through December 12, 2025, but may be extended or made permanent after further review, the agency said.

According to the DEA, the substances—MDMB-4en-PINACA, 4F-MDMB-BUTICA, ADB-4en-PINACA, CUMYL-PEGACLONE, 5F-EDMB-PICA, and MMB-FUBICA—mimic the biological effects of delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. They typically “originate from foreign sources, such as China,” the agency’s notice in the Federal Register states. “Substances in bulk powder form are smuggled via common carrier into the United States and find their way to clandestine designer drug product manufacturing operations located in residential neighborhoods, garages, warehouses, and other similar destinations throughout the country.


“According to online discussion boards and law enforcement encounters, spraying or mixing the [synthetic cannabinoids] with plant material provides a vehicle for the most common route of administration—smoking (using a pipe, a water pipe, or rolling the drug-laced plant material in cigarette papers),” the notice continued.

The powdered substances often take a circuitous route through Europe, New Zealand, or Australia before appearing in the U.S., the DEA noted. Products incorporating the now-banned synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as a “legal high” or “legal alternative to marijuana” and are “readily available” online and in gas stations, convenience stores, and tobacco and head shops, according to the agency. Three of them—MDMB-4en-PINACA, 4F-MDMB-BUTICA, and CUMYL-PEGACLONE—sometimes are mixed with illegal hard drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported the six synthetic cannabinoids can produce “severe, life-threatening health effects, including severe agitation and anxiety, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and hallucinations.” MDMB-4en-PINACA has been responsible for nearly 10,000 poison-control emergencies since 2019, according to AAPCC.

“Emergency department presentations involving MDMB-4en-PINACA or CUMYL-PEGACLONE have included seizures, sudden collapse, involuntary muscle spasms, jerking movements, catatonia, or increased violence,” the DEA’s notice states. “Multiple deaths have been reported involving MDMB-4en-PINACA, 4F-MDMB-BUTICA, and CUMYL-PEGACLONE.”

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