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Home / Articles / Opinion / CitizenSpeak /  Prohibition on the march: Why spice should stay legal

Prohibition on the march: Why spice should stay legal

By Jerry Salcido
Posted // October 26,2010 - Utah city, county, and state legislators are once again making themselves useful and good consumers of our tax dollars by passing more unnecessary legislation. The latest wave of legislation moving across Utah is to ban spice. What is it you ask? Well, if our bureaucrats were to explain it they would have you believe that it is the downfall of society, a mind-numbing substance which converts anyone who uses it into a felony-committing-convict apt to murder anyone who comes across their path.

In reality, spice is a concoction of different chemicals and herbs which is used as incense, but can also be inhaled to produce a high akin to marijuana. It has become popular over the last couple of years amongst Utah teens and college students because it is legal euphoria. It comes as no shock, therefore, that city, county, and state officials are working frantically to ban spice and thereby its attendant feelings of bliss. Utah County, Cache County, Ogden and other cities have all thrown their hat into the anti-spice ring and now in those jurisdictions you can be put in jail for doing something that was perfectly legal only a few weeks ago.

Government officials never learn, and for some reason they always believe their power is not governed by the same truths that govern the rest of the universe. Such is the case with the banning of spice. The same faulty beliefs, the same ignorance, and the same misunderstandings of moral and economic law that resulted in Prohibition of the 1920s and the current War on Drugs induces our representatives to pass equally moronic bans on spice.

There are likely many who advocate the abolition of spice, like other controlled substances, because it has a physical affect on one’s mind and body, i.e., it produces a high. They may even argue that such a substance is addictive (regardless of whether such a notion is scientifically supported) and since addictions can be destructive of an individual the local and state governments should intervene to protect the individual against himself. In other words, our dear leaders justify using force and coercion to prohibit the use of spice on grounds of morality.

The bureaucrats, however, will never be in the right in forcing someone to do something or not do something against his will if that something does not infringe on the liberties of anyone else. In the case of spice, the mere inhalation or ingestion of spice or any other drug hurts no third party. To the extent that spice hurts anyone at all, it is he who inhales/ingests the product, but each person has a natural right to do whatever he wants to himself so long as he does not hurt anyone else. Is this really such a difficult concept?

In spite of this maxim, government officials, in their infinite wisdom, will argue that there may be adverse consequences that derive from the use of spice and it is against those potential consequences that they are guarding through the passing of coercive laws. They seem to forget
that in the event any of those consequences results in infringing on the liberty of another, there is already a legal remedy.

For example, our representatives, who are grasping at straws as it is, point to a case in which a man in Clarkston who was “under the influence” of spice shot a goat. They recount this situation in order to have us believe that the spice made the man shoot the goat. This is what we call a logical fallacy. Even if it were true that the spice made the man shoot the goat by removing the man’s will power to control his own mind and body, it still does not morally justify banning spice because there is already a legal remedy for the man’s actions, which is why he was charged with cruelty to animals and reckless endangerment. So the remedy for the man’s actions was present at the time of the shooting, yet Cache County decided to pass another law to provide yet another remedy? Waste of time, waste of money. Stay home Cache County councilmen. Make better use of your time.

One Cache County councilman, Cory Yeates, justified the ban as “legislat[ing] people out of stupidity.” Pompous, arrogant…and very scary. The moment a government official believes that the proper role of government is to “legislate people out of stupidity” is when you know that things have gone awry. Mr. Yeates is as wrong as his comment is pretentious. Mr. Yeates’s only job is to ensure that the county government protects those living in its territory. Prohibiting a couple of seventeen year olds from inhaling spice in their basement protects no one for the simple reason that in smoking the spice they infringe on no one’s right of liberty or property.

Mr. Yeates and the Cache County council have apparently taken upon them the mantle of omnipotence, asserting that they are the judges of what is “stupid” and what is not. They have also unilaterally discounted the rights of individuals to be free from interventionist government policies that have no foundation in natural law. In their eyes they are doing a great service to society.
There is no moral foundation for banning spice. Indeed, banning spice is immoral, because it deprives the individual of a piece of his liberty.

Spice is a good and there is a demand for that good. Never, in the history of the world, has a legislative measure ever succeeded in stopping the sell and use of a product for which there is a demand? It is basic economics. If there is demand, there will be supply. The only thing the government can do is interfere with the form of supply and demand. In outlawing spice all these bureaucrats have done is transform the spice market from legitimate to the black market.

In forcing the spice market to go underground the prices of spice will necessarily increase because of the risk associated with selling and producing an illegal product. Rest assured, however, the price will not increase so much as to price itself out of the market. Those who want spice, like marijuana, cocaine, or any other controlled substance will find a way to pay for it.

Indeed, by banning spice the bureaucrats have done a great service to the criminal syndicates who will be able to raise the price of spice to levels that a free market would not tolerate. The sellers of spice are probably thanking those wise individuals in the government who are forcefully cause an increase in the price of their product.

The ban on spice is also likely to increase crime. By making the spice market illegal producers and consumers alike must start producing and trading in the underground market. They are instantly considered criminals by the government for doing this, but this increased risk will increase the price which will create incentive for others to get involved in the market. Further, because production, distribution, and consumption must be done underground the newly created market will be regulated by the strong (i.e., the sellers with the most muscle) rather than by the self-regulation imposed by the free market.

Look at the spice market now. There is no crime associated with it because the producers and distributors are able to sell their product to legitimate businesses throughout the state. In counties like Utah and Cache, however, those same producers and distributors were prohibited from doing so overnight. Now if they wish to sell their product they must do so quietly and if caught will be placed behind bars.

Like any banned substance, spice could also become the subject of gang violence. There may be different criminal cartels who govern the sale of spice in certain territories. It is the natural progression of a banned product. Prohibition and the War on Drugs are evidence of the crime that is associated with the production, distribution, and consumption of products banned by the government. Spice, so long as the demand remains constant, will be yet another product associate with crime.
Want to prevent crime? Remove the prohibitions on controlled substances.

There is no spice problem that needs to be addressed. The product is bought and sold peacefully and consumed even more peacefully. State legislators, county and city councils should stay out of the spice market. Let those who want to consume it, consume it and stop trying to micromanage every individual’s life.

Any ban on spice is and will be immoral, contrary to sound economic sense, and will increase crime. Dear bureaucrats, please think about meddling in affairs which need no government meddling, and leave spice alone.

Jerry Salcido is a trial and appellate criminal defense lawyer in Salt Lake City, a former Republican Party county chairman and state delegate, and a legal advocate of homeschooling rights. E-mail your thoughts to or email Salcido.

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Posted // February 21,2011 at 11:05

So you think my 12 year old getting high on this substance is acceptable. Really. The fact that he used this in the woods with older teens, spent an hour screaming and shaking uncontrollably is just his right, his freedom? No bans, no restrictions, sell it to children, at least he is getting high legally is your answer. Should people be able to drive while under its influence? What about my 8 yr old? Should I serve it at dinner to him too. Should we make alcohol consumption legal at any age?

What is this world coming to......


Posted // April 8,2011 at 22:38 - To the above poster: Sounds like your son had fun! Ahaha, but seriously... You do know you have to be 18 to buy it, right? I do not condone underage use of this, and I'm sure not many would. The problem with a lot of people and this substance, is that many underestimate it, and smoke too much. If you are a weak-minded person, I'm sure that could make you paranoid or feeling pretty loopy for awhile, but everyone comes down in the end. The news stories I've heard against spice are completely ridiculous, and range from kids killing themselves or doing really strange things... Who is to say they wouldn't have done those things anyways? Past the years, I've noticed that most drugs really bring out the real "you." So if you do something strange on this, you most likely have an underlying medical/mental condition... Sorry to say, but it's almost never the drug's fault, but the user's. Plus, making it illegal will do nothing but take away money from the free market and give more to the black market, create more "criminals", and give the government more control of our lives. Keep it legal, or legalize marijuana. I'd gladly accept the latter of the two! :)


Posted // October 26,2010 at 20:43

Spice needs no regulation. If teens and college students want to get high, they will find a way. At least they are trying to find a legal way to get high. Spice may be very unhealthy for you. I just can't listen to those clowns relating spice to marijuana when they haven't tried either one of those products. I used to be a daily marijuana smoker. I quit a few years ago. When spice came around I tried it....nowhere near the potency as marijuana. Marijuana has been proven to be a safe product, so why don't we legalize it? How can you say that marijuana has bad when people are abusing alcohol, a substance that kills thousands of people every year. So the real issue is Marijuana. Harmless drug with many, many benefits. It's not perfect but far better than other LEGAL substances. We need to quit wasting our tax dollars and making perfectly good citizens into criminals. Know the facts NOT propaganda.


Posted // October 26,2010 at 13:26

I agree with the first comment. I would support a legislative action (i.e. ban or restriction on sales) if a thorough medical research program were completed, to tell us if it is harmful or safe. Our legislators make too many decisions without a thorough study of all the implications, and as a result some results are wise and others are less so. We don't know whether this Spice ban will prove to be wise or otherwise, but it would be nice if they had some concrete reason to enact it before they do so . .


Posted // October 26,2010 at 11:31

While I agree that the moral hubbub about spice is a waste of time, this article doesn't talk about what I believe to be the most important issue concerning spice; the health risks to users.

Spice is not marketed for consumption, and therefore can contain anything without having to adhere to any FDA regulations, or even have an accurate ingredients list. The active ingredient is an under-tested synthetic cannabis, and the herbs can be anything at all; for the most part they are just a vehicle for the cannabis.

The various synthetic cannabinoids used vary from around 3-800 times stronger than THC, and packages do not say what type of cannabinoid is used. Some varieties are shown to metabolize into cancer-causing carcinogens, and no variety of Spice has any medicinal properties like marijuana does.

In fact, a toxicologist from St. Louis University said he observed spice creating "agitation, elevated heart rates, vomiting and other health effects not associated with moderate cannabis use."

If spice is to be made illegal, it should be done because we don't know if it's poison or not. I'm for the legislation against spice if only to spur potheads into working harder to make the real deal, marijuana, legal in Utah.