Proposed bills would ban salvia, K2, caffeinated alcohol drinks


Illustration: Aaron Hewitt/Iowa State Daily

Bills recently introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives would ban manufactured caffeinated-alcohol drinks, salvia, K2 and Spice.

Michael Craighton

Caffeinated alcohol, salvia, K2 and Spice’s days may be numbered in Iowa.

A bill recently introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives would  ban salvia divinorum, salvinorin A and nearly all of the chemicals found in synthetic cannabis products such as K2 and Spice.

Salvia divinorum, commonly known simply as salvia, is a psychoactive, naturally growing plant. Salvinorin A is the main chemical found in salvia that causes it to be hallucinogenic.

The bill to ban the substances, House File 33, was introduced by Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown.

Under the provisions of HF 33, salvia and synthetic cannabis products like K2 would be classified as a schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are “drugs with no proven or acceptable medical use and a high abuse potential,” according to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy’s website. Other drugs include in Schedule I include marijuana and heroin, among others.

The bill would make it a class “C” felony to manufacture or distribute any of the listed substances, punishable by a fine of at least $1,000, and a serious misdemeanor to possess them. Possession would slap an individual with a fine upwards of $300.

Smith’s interest in introducing this bill stems from his work experience.

“I’m a licensed independent social worker and a certified alcohol and drug counselor,” Smith said.

He said that to his knowledge he is the only alcohol and drug counselor in the Iowa General Assembly.

“My interest in this area is because I’ve worked with people who have a spectrum of disorders from substance misuse to abuse to dependency, so I’m always interested restricting availability of these substances,” Smith said.

“I believe addictions are disorders of adolescence,” he said. “The probability of me at age 59 trying marijuana for the first time and becoming addicted to it is much lower than if I was 15 years of age.

“I’m a strong proponent that the longer that we can not have these things available to young people the fewer addiction problems we can have.”

In response to the comment mentioned in a previous Iowa State Daily article that he “[wouldn’t] be making friends with many young voters,” Smith said it’s really about making good policy.

“My concern is that it’s just a bad drug,” Smith said. “Some things [like young voters’ approval] are just worth risking.”

Smith also said that although he is against the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, this bill wouldn’t have anything to do with that conversation.

Smith also introduced House File 29, which would increase the power and freedom of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, the body responsible for regulating pharmacy and substances in the state.

The Board of Pharmacy is the body that has the power to declare a substance a controlled substance. In the past, the board has only been able to do so if something has been determined to be controlled at the federal level. Under the new law introduced by Smith, the board would have the authority to list something as a controlled substance if it is determined to “pose a threat to the public health, safety or welfare.”

Iowa is not the first state to consider banning K2 and salvia. Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Virginia have placed bans on salvia, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA is currently in the process of using its emergency powers to temporarily ban K2 at the federal level while the agency investigates it further. This temporary ban has sparked a lawsuit challenging the DEA’s right to take that action.

Smith said that he does not believe this turn of events will affect the bill’s passage in Iowa. However, he did say that if the DEA makes the ban permanent, the federal law would override any state legislation, much in the same way the FDA ruling on caffeinated alcohol has superceded that bill in the Iowa legislature.

The The DEA has labeled salvia as a “Drug of Concern,” meaning that at this time they are taking no further action to regulate it.

Several objections have been raised to banning K2 and other synthetic cannabinoid substances. One of these relates to a ruling by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy in February 2010. In that ruling, the board recommended that medical marijuana be reclassified as schedule II drug. Drugs in that category have “a high potential for abuse but with currently accepted medical use in treatment.”

The question has been raised that, since K2 is a synthetic replacement of cannabis it should receive the same treatment within the drug schedules as recommended by the Board of Pharmacy.

“We know that synthetic vitamin A does the same thing as natural vitamin A,” Smith said. “But I don’t know that we know that about synthetic marijuana.”

But the legal drugs may not be the only thing taken off the market — Smith introduced House File 29, which would ban nearly all manufactured caffeinated alcohol.

But the bill was actually introduced before the ban on Four Loko and similar products in November 2010.

“The FDA made a ruling, and that’s federal, so that should trump this and may mean that it is no longer needed,” Smith said. “The bill is in committee and is probably not going to move.”

Any beverage that contains .5 percent alcohol by volume to which caffeine is added would be prohibited, according to the bill.

Smith clarified this language, and said that only drinks that are caffeinated in the manufacturing process would be prohibited. Alcoholic beverage where alcohol is a natural, such as cocoa wine and mixed drinks like Red Bull and vodka would not be affected.

Students have mixed reaction to the new bans. Some, like Jonathan Jensen, sophomore in construction engineering, support the ban.

“Weed isn’t legal, so [salvia] shouldn’t be either,” Jensen said. “If it was, people using it would have no control if they used it while they were behind the wheel.”

Smith also said that although he does not expect his bills to make it to the House floor, an identical bill currenlty in the Public Safety committee will. He expects the bills to be passed into law soon.