Banning spice is no longer a local or statewide issue.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration announced on Wednesday that it is close to a nationwide temporary ban of several smokable herbal blends -- marketed as being legal -- providing a marijuana-like high, including spice.
"Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that 'fake pot' is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs. But that is not the case," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.
"Today's action will call further attention to the risks of ingesting unknown compounds and will hopefully take away any incentive to try these products," Leonhart said.
Within the next 30 days, the nationwide ban will be official and will last for a year, with a possible six-month extension. During that time, Congress will decide what to do about the products that consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
These chemicals, found on products Spice, K2, Blaze and Red X Dawn, have not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for human consumption and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process. The products are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose and are sold at a variety of retail outlets and over the Internet.
Many area communities have already banned spice, and the state Legislature is expected to discuss a statewide ban during the 2011 session.
"We'll do what we're going to do and put it in, and that way it's a fallback because, obviously, federal law will supersede what we're doing," said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton.
"But at least we'll have the groundwork laid, and if Congress doesn't act on it then it will still be business as usual in Utah, because we'll have the ban in place."
The plan is good news for those in Utah who have been fighting the sale of spice.
"With impressionable teens and young adults in Utah and across the nation abusing marijuana substitutes to get high, the DEA's decision to criminalize the possession and sale of these drugs and the chemicals they contain is the right prescription to help law enforcement professionals head off this fast-growing epidemic," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Layton City Attorney Gary Crane said that before the city ban on spice, police officers had experiences pulling somebody over who had all the indications of being intoxicated, but then passed the blood tests. The only thing they failed was the field sobriety test.
"We figured out that spice was what they were using, and oftentimes we found it in their possession," Crane said. "What we've discovered is sometimes it's stronger than what normal marijuana use would bring. The impairment is at a higher level, we've found, so that's dangerous."