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Fake Marijuana

September 14 , 2013


What's the difference between Mary Jane and fake Mary Jane? Fake Mary Jane is like a blow-up doll. The bang you get is a plastic high.

Much like Frankenstein's monster, synthetic marijuana, was created in a lab and resulted in a perversion of its original subject: the effects of THC, the component of marijuana that provides the "high" sensation.

Like marijuana, the drug is smoked, though unlike marijuana it comes in small packets usually labeled "not for human consumption" and has names like "Spice," "Black Mamba," "K2," "Fake Marijuana," "Sexy Monkey" and hundreds of others.

The chemicals in synthetic marijuana are also harder to detect than marijuana in drug tests, and the drug is the second most used illicit drug among high school seniors, behind marijuana itself according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While certain chemical compounds of synthetic marijuana were banned in Colorado in 2011, there are possibly hundreds more anonymous compounds that haven't been identified yet and thus, aren't illegal.

Just being known as "synthetic marijuana" has angered pot activists because, it's effects are nothing like that of marijuana. Synthetic marijuana's non-cannabis herbs sprayed with lab-created chemicals which are said to give users a stronger high than THC can lead to seizures, hallucinations and convulsions as well as profoundly negative psychological effects.

Even John W. Huffman, the scientist who is often credited with creating synthetic marijuana on a federal drug grant to study the effects of drugs on receptors in the brain on lab animals, has recommended that people don't ingest the compounds.

"These things are dangerous -- anybody who uses them is playing Russian roulette," Huffman said to the Los Angeles Times in 2011.

What is synthetic marijuana?

It's a synthetic cannabinoid. It's made in a lab. The compounds actually were created -- depending on which one you're talking about -- the earliest one was about 1978, they were usually done for research and I think two of them were done in the United States, one overseas. And then when there was like an open source where you could see what the compound was, then it became more popular. I think around 2009 is when we started seeing it in the United States, as being abused.

What's the difference between synthetic marijuana and traditional, plant-grown marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is far more powerful, and it just depends on the compounds that are in the synthetic cannabinoid. The compounds itself, it's almost like a DNA, like little piece of DNA, and some of the analogs could be 1 to 800 times more powerful, some are 25 times more powerful, some are 5 times. So it really depends on the compounds that are in the make up of it and the hardest part is, because it's lab-created, they are constantly trying to change the analogs in it and the compounds so it's like an unknown and then it's not technically illegal, at least under federal law.

Then depending on the state you're in, there are 45 states that have some sort of law against synthetic cannabinoids or synthetic drugs, and depending on how good that law is, could depend on how aggressive the state prosecution can be on it. Here in Colorado we actually have a very good law on the books, so it's pretty forward-thinking.

How can marijuana users be sure they're not smoking or using synthetic cannabinoids?

The smartest thing to do would be to stay away from anything that says it's a spice or a mamba, which is also a generic term. Anything that says it's a potpourri, "not for human consumption," it all says that, but that's just to try to divert it around the law.

How much more potent is synthetic marijuana than legal marijuana, typically?

It really depends, one package can be completely different from another -- it depends on how it's mixed when they mix it and spray it, because it gets sprayed on a plant material. Is it mixed thickly? Or is it a thinner delusion of it? And then how thickly is it sprayed onto the plant material? So there's a lot of human error there and you really don't know what the compounds are from one to another. You know, you can have two packages from a lab that's doing the spraying, and one has got these compounds and the other one could have something totally different -- so you could have two totally different effects on the human body.

What are the costs?

It comes in 3-5 grams that they sell -- and they make $30 on it. It might cost you $5,000 to make it and there's probably a return of about $250,000 if you go all the way down to retail.

What are some of the symptoms of synthetic marijuana?

There can be a euphoria, there's a mental addiction -- wanting that next high, there's vomiting, nausea, accelerated heart rate, blood pressure can shoot up, kidney damage, there's some very disturbing and more aggressive-type reactions that we're seeing. Violence, almost like a freezing of the body that becomes statue-like and everything shuts down, so it's everything. It's physical and it's psychological.

Are there any non-harmful strains of synthetic marijuana?

No. They're all harmful, it's just that some are extremely dangerous and deadly. There are hundreds of different names. The majority [of synthetic cannabinoids] are called either "spice," or "fake weed," "mamba" or "black mamba."

The most important thing though is for people not to use spice -- or synthetic cannabinoids in any form, because you don't know which one you're getting and if you think, 'oh, but this one is 'sexy monkey' and I'm okay with that one,' it's not true. Just because it doesn't say "mamba" doesn't mean it's not a derivative of, because it's a generic name.

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