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Five Additional Synthetic Cannabinoids Subject to Import Restrictions

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has announced that effective 16 April five additional synthetic cannabinoid products are being placed into schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act for two years on an emergency basis, with a possible additional one-year extension, followed by permanent listing on schedule 1 through the regular process. According to the DEA, this action is necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety.

As a result of this order, the regulatory controls and administrative, civil and criminal sanctions applicable to schedule I controlled substances will be imposed on persons who handle (manufacture, distribute, reverse distribute, import, export, engage in research, conduct instructional activities or chemical analysis, or possess), or propose to handle, any of the following synthetic cannabinoids:

  • ethyl 2-(1-(5- fluoropentyl)-1H-indazole-3-carboxamido)-3,3-dimethylbutanoate (5FEDMB-PINACA);
  • methyl 2-(1-(5-fluoropentyl)-1H-indole-3-carboxamido)-3,3- dimethylbutanoate (5F-MDMB-PICA);
  • N-(adamantan-1-yl)-1-(4- fluorobenzyl)-1H-indazole-3-carboxamide (FUB-AKB48, FUBAPINACA, AKB48 N-(4-FLUOROBENZYL));
  • 1-(5-fluoropentyl)-N-(2-phenylpropan2-yl)-1H-indazole-3-carboxamide (5F-CUMYL-PINACA; SGT-25); and
  • (1-(4-fluorobenzyl)-1H-indol-3-yl)(2,2,3,3-tetramethylcyclopropyl)methanone (FUB-144).

The DEA notice provides the full chemical structure of each named chemical substance along with a listing of adverse effects. It indicates that substances in schedule I have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

New synthetic cannabinoids have been added to schedule I every year since 2013. According to the DEA, as successive generations of synthetic cannabinoids have been identified and controlled as schedule I substances, illicit distributors have developed new substances that vary only by slight modifications to their chemical structure while retaining pharmacological effects related to their abuse potential. 

The DEA believes many of these synthetic cannabinoid chemicals originate in mainland China. Bulk powder substances are smuggled via common carrier into the United States and find their way to clandestine designer drug product manufacturing operations located in residential neighbourhoods, garages, warehouses and other similar destinations throughout the country. The agency is encouraging legitimate exporters to ensure that none of their exports are being used to smuggle synthetic cannabinoids.

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