An interesting twist in Congressional efforts to ban cathinone derivative drugs

June 26, 2012

Last week the US House of Representatives voted to approve a ban on several recreational drugs in the two classes we’ve been discussing of late. Namely the synthetic cannabinoids and the cathinones. They slipped the ban into a bill first called the “Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act” (Senate version; S.3187) and then, apparently the “FDA User Fee Agreement” (House version maybe) so you can tell they were on the hurry-up about it. As noted in this account from the Bangor Daily News:

The measure combines three bills previously introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Among the chemicals it would outlaw are mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, known as MDPV, which can be used to make bath salts. The bill carries a penalty of up to 30 years for those caught selling the drug.

The lone dissenter in the Senate vote was Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took emergency action in September 2011 to federally ban mephedrone, Methylone and MDPV and designated the hallucinogenic stimulants a Schedule 1 drug, the same class as heroin and LSD.

I’m having trouble finding anything that specifies exactly what was passed by the House last week but this page S.3190 lists 4-MMC/mephedrone and 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and then some phenethylamines in the 2C family. These lack the beta-ketone signature of a cathinone so calling them “bath salts” even further confuses the identity issue, I will note. Curiously, methylone (or 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone, the MDMA cousin) is not on this list. If anything, the available data tend to suggest this is the one most likely to be a breakout hit in this country…it is already pretty popular in the UK.

Anyway, the news of the day is that Sen Patrick Leahy of VT has blocked the inclusion of the 2C compounds and the resulting bill has passed the Senate with only mephedrone and MDPV included from that class of compounds (apparently all the cannabinoids were included). According to this reporting, a member of his staff said:

“Sen. Leahy has been clear that scheduling controlled substances is not something to be taken lightly.”

“It is not without implication to put a whole lot of chemicals on the federal drug schedule,” he said. “It means putting more people in jail and makes it harder to seek legitimate uses for these drugs. Leahy is most comfortable sticking with what has been carefully considered.”

Here’s how I read this from my perspective as one that has been interested in the effects of the cathinones and has followed the developing scientific literature and, to lesser extent the street seizures and policy initiatives, via published work and discussions with researchers, DEA representatives, NIDA Program Officials and even FDA folks.

I bet they presented actual data on mephedrone and MDPV. Published data and as-yet-unpublished data from laboratories in addition to the public health and law enforcement data. Data that are probably limited but still reasonably convincing. To a CongressCritter. This is the “carefully considered” part.

What I also would predict is that there was comparatively less information about the 2C drugs, if any at all. And the DEA hoped that by calling it all “bath salts” they could criminalize the lot. I would surmise that at best the pro-ban folks based their demands on finding some 2C family compounds in products being sold as bath salts along with, or in a context similar to, substituted cathinone drugs like mephedrone and MDPV.

And I bet Sen Leahy called bullshit on an information disparity.

If this is what happened, I have to issue a pat on the back to him for standing up for the rule of information in making policy decisions.

UPDATE: ok, this appears to be a House bill version that includes a full list. Several cathinones were included in addition to the 2C-? phenethylamines. Interesting. There’s a link which compares it to S.31690 and you can see where the Senate version had just the 4-MMC and MDPV with the 2C-? phenethylamines.

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No Responses Yet to “An interesting twist in Congressional efforts to ban cathinone derivative drugs”

  1. drugmonkey Says:

    OK, see update and the Senate bill link that I originally forgot. The Senate versions are the ones that included just 4-MMC and MDPV from the cathinone class but packaged in a bunch of 2C-? phenethylamines in the subgrouping (alleged bath salts and cannabinoids, basically). The House version had the 2C-? but also a list of several other cathinones including the 4fluoro and methylone ones that my read suggests are the next most-prevalent ones in the actual recreational use market.

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  2. […] to criminalize several drug compounds which were alleged to be components of "bath salts". As I was just discussing, the only ones to survive the axe of Sen Leahy were 4-MMC and MDPV… but of course the DEA has […]

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