A "herbal high" that mimics the effect of cannabis should be banned, the Government's drug adviser said today.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said Spice could be more powerful than cannabis. Pouches of the drug are widely available on the internet and in so-called "head shops" for around £20.
The council's chairman, Professor David Nutt, said although it was sold as a "natural" high, Spice was created using dangerous chemicals. He said: "Spice and other synthetic cannabinoid products are being sold legally as harmless 'herbal legal highs'. However, the herbal content is coated in one or more dangerous chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cannabis. These are not harmless herbal alternatives and have been found to cause paranoia and panic attacks. That is why we are advising the Government to bring a large number of synthetic cannabinoids under the Misuse of Drugs Act."
Spice and other so-called "synthetic cannabinoids" escape existing drugs laws because they do not contain marijuana and are not chemically related to it. But by spraying synthetic additives on to herbs, dealers can create similar intoxication in users to that caused by THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. Analysis of samples of Spice show it has a "higher potency" than THC, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) warned. It said Spice could be "more harmful" because of the quantity of chemicals in the drug is "unknown to the user".
Home Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to legislate later this year to ban Spice. It is likely to be made a class B drug, alongside cannabis.