Austria bans herbal incense 'Spice'

VIENNA (AFP) — Austria's health ministry imposed an immediate ban Thursday on the sale and distribution of the herbal incense "Spice", which some people have taken to smoking for its hallucinogenic effects.

"Spice", which is sold legally in a number of countries as an exotic herbal blend that releases a rich fragrance when burned, would be banned from sale immediately in Austria because a cannabis-like substance, JWH-018, had been found in it, the ministry said in a statement.

While the effects of taking the substance had not yet been fully determined, the risks were deemed to be high, the statement added.

Thus, an immediate 14-day ban had been imposed until a more permanent ruling could be reached, the statement said.

The herbal incense mixtures -- with names such as "Spice Silver", "Spice Gold", "Spice Diamond", "Spice Arctic Synergy", "Spice Tropical Synergy", "Spice Egypt", "Spice Yucatan Fire" -- are currently freely available.

While initially marketed as an incense, posts on Internet forums devoted to drug use have extensively praised the effects of the mixtures when smoked.

Spice has been banned in Switzerland since the end of last year.

Municipal authorities in the German city of Frankfurt recently commissioned a specialist pharmaceuticals laboratory, THC Pharm, which makes medicinal substances from cannabis, to examine Spice samples and found the substance JWH-018 in all of them.