There are many problems associated with the illegality of marijuana in most of the United States. These range from unnecessarily harsh sentencing for the use or distribution of marijuana to the inability of scientists to do useful research on the effects of marijuana compounds, like THC or CBD. However, one of the most serious problems is the increase in the use of synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana is actually a misnomer since the junk being sold has nothing to do with genuine marijuana. It is often far more dangerous despite being legal in some cases (though this is changing) and has lead to an epidemic of sickness and death. Using and selling fake weed is highly dangerous and dangerously irresponsible. This article delves into the details of synthetic marijuana and why no sane, intelligent person should ever go near it.
What is Synthetic Weed?
So-called synthetic weed has nothing to do with the marijuana plant, it is just plant matter sprayed with artificial cannabinoids. Since it doesn’t contain any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it is not illegal, at least not until the law catches up to it for brief periods. It is often sold in head shops or gas stations as a cheap and legal version of genuine marijuana. There are several different names under which synthetic weed appears, all of which should be avoided. Here are some to look out for, keep in mind that some of these have already been banned in some states:
- Spice – the most common type
- K2 – has the most varieties
- Kush \\\ – an e-cigarette liquid
- NoSho – a reference to the fact that it doesn’t show up on drug tests
- Pandora’s Box Reborn – one of the most dangerous varieties
- Legals – a general term referring of course, to their general legal status
- Barely Legal Express
- Mad Monkey
- Dead Man Walking
- Serenity Now
There are far, far many more types than these for reasons that will become clear later in this article. However, these are among the most common and/or most dangerous types. No matter what it is called, fake weed should be avoided at all costs.
The Origins of Synthetic Weed
The creation of synthetic weed is a byproduct of the research done by the scientist John W. Huffman in the 1980’s. That was when the cannabinoid receptors in the brain were first discovered, these receptors respond to the compounds THC and CBD (cannabidiol), both found in the marijuana plant. Huffman created hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids in order to study its effect on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These compounds are named after him and are called JWH-018, JWH-200 and so on.
His efforts were laudable and held legitimate scientific value. Unfortunately, however, other people only saw his valuable research as a way to make a quick buck. Somewhere along the line, his research was hijacked by underground chemists who used his development to create cheap, legal artificial marijuana.
This was an attractive proposition for criminal elements because fake weed is quick and easy to make. They just spray the artificial cannabinoids onto some plant material and then sell it. This started happening in Europe around 2004 and in America circa 2008. These compounds were never intended for human use, and as such, have never been tested on humans. That is one of the reasons why there effects vary so wildly and why they are so dangerous.
Why People use Synthetic Weed
First of all, there is never a good reason to use synthetic weed because there is nothing good about synthetic weed. The use of it is a result of the illegality of marijuana across most of the country, chances are that most people would choose actual marijuana if it were legally available. Since it is not, many resort to legal synthetic weed instead. This is ironic because legal fake weed is far more dangerous than illegal real weed.
Since drug tests do not search for the compounds in fake weed, many people use fake weed to beat these drug tests. Synthetic weed is also relatively cheap because it can be easily mass produced, making it very affordable to the average consumer. The legality—or quasi-legality in some cases—cheapness, and drug-test-defeating nature of fake weed makes it an irresistible temptation for many people.
No matter the reason, using synthetic weed is a foolish, irresponsible thing to do.
The Health Costs of Synthetic Weed
Fake marijuana is one of the most dangerous substances available. There are numerous news reports of people getting severely ill, or even dying, after using synthetic marijuana. The effects of synthetic marijuana are far more intense and severe than genuine marijuana, here is a list of the physical and mental problems that can be caused by synthetic weed:
- Heart problems
- Myocardial infarction
- Kidney damage
The THC in marijuana is a partial agonist, this means that it only partially binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Synthetic cannabinoids are full agonists, which means that they completely bind and saturate the cannabinoid receptors, making them 10 to 200 times more potent than THC. This is believed to be the result of the adverse mental effects, like psychosis and panic attacks, experienced by users of fake weed.
The calm, relaxing effect of CBD is among its many benefits and its presence in the marijuana plant acts as a counteragent to the effects of THC. This provides a balance that is not present in synthetic cannabinoids since they lack any CBD. The higher potency of the synthetic cannabinoids combined with the lack of anything to provide a counter effect causes serious mental and physical problems in some of the people who use fake weed.
Lack of Quality Control in the Synthetic Weed Marketplace
Another factor responsible for the dangers of fake weed is the lack of regulation in the industry. Two packages of Zombie Mario might be identical on the outside but their contents can vary greatly. The synthetic cannabinoids are usually sprayed on the plant matter using a cheap sprayer in an unsanitary setting.
This can mean that the amount of synthetic cannabinoids in each package can be very different, furthermore, they might have hot spots where there is a greater concentration of the synthetic compounds. That hot spot could end up being extremely dangerous if smoked. What’s more, the manufacturers often use up to five different types of synthetics in each package, increasing the chance that the fake weed will cause harm.
Synthetic weed can also be spiked with other dangerous substances, one kind caused users to start bleeding from their eyes and ears. It was suspected that this brand had a blood thinner mixed in it, another type had rat poison mixed in it and I don’t need to tell you why that’s dangerous.
The Legal Status of Synthetic Weed
I use terms like “usually,” “generally,” or “quasi-legal” to describe the legal status of synthetic weed because lawmakers often criminalize fake weed once it starts causing problems to users. Unfortunately, trying to keep up with the synthetic weed market is like herding cats, as soon as one type of synthetic cannabinoid is made illegal, the underground chemists alter the formula to produce more new compounds that are legal.
This means that the legal status of fake marijuana is constantly fluctuating as compounds come and go. As of this writing, there are hundreds of different synthetic cannabinoids and more are being created. The reason is that it is a fairly simple process for anyone with a grad school level of chemistry.
The Last Word on Synthetic Weed
The most important thing to say about synthetic weed is this: don’t do it. There is literally nothing good about fake weed. It may be able to beat a drug test but it comes at the steep price of your general health and mental well-being. It is such a terrible epidemic that even people who sell this stuff exhort there customers not to buy it. The man who created synthetic cannabinoids, John W. Huffman, has called anyone who uses it “a potential winner of the Darwin award.”
Even people who managed to avoid the worst effects of fake weed have mentioned that it is an experience far inferior to, and much more unpleasant than, using actual marijuana. So don’t smoke it, don’t put it in your dry herb vaporizer, and don’t use fake weed infused e-juice in your e-cigarette. You’re basically making yourself a lab rat for substances that were never meant for human consumption.
Perhaps legalized weed is the solution to curbing the epidemic of fake weed that is ruining—and ending—lives. Whatever the case may be, the advice that I give to any smart, rational person about using synthetic weed is this: Don’t. It’s not worth it.