What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

The dangerous and legal alternative to marijuana.

In recent years marijuana has gained massive recognition for its health benefits, and as a result has become legalized across several states in the US, parts of Europe, and in all of Canada. Marijuana has become widely used across the world for both medicinal and recreational use.

Even though marijuana is now legal in various locations across the globe, some places have neglected to join the legalization movement. As of today, marijuana is still illegal for the majority of the world. Because of its illegality, some people have resorted to using synthetic marijuana. An artificial form of cannabis that takes form in dry herbs that resemble potpourri or oregano, and are laced with mind-altering chemicals. These chemicals mimic the effects of cannabinoids.

Here's the kicker… synthetic marijuana is legal, and not because of its health properties.

On the packaging of these synthetic herbs are labels that state "not for human consumption", and because of this loophole, these drugs are legal and can be sold anywhere. People can find them in gas stations, head shops, and all over the internet. By 2010 many of the chemicals found in synthetic marijuana were rendered illegal, however, this didn't stop them from being available. Producers of synthetic marijuana merely swapped out the illegal components and replaced them.

Make no mistake about it, synthetic marijuana is lethal and comes with copious amounts of negative side effects.

The master of marijuana, Snoop Dogg, would not approve.

Spice, K2… fake weed.

Synthetic marijuana is a broad category of herbs that are sprinkled with mind-altering chemicals that come with similar effects to marijuana. Consumption of these synthetic herbs produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation. However, these good feelings are short-lived and produce opposite effects on the comedown.

These drugs are commonly referred to or labelled as spice or K2. The use of spice or K2 comes with a vast amount of negative side effects that are detrimental to one's health. These side effects include, and not limited to, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, vomiting, and seizures. Some cases from usage even reported coagulopathy, a severe bleeding disorder.

Many people, especially teenagers and young adults are attracted to using synthetic marijuana because of the myth that it is safer to use than real cannabis. Some have even suggested that synthetic cannabis is a great marijuana smoking cessation. However, these myths are absolutely false. These legal synthetic herbs are dangerous and hardly share any similarities to real cannabis.

Originally, these artificial herbs were created by scientists for research purposes. Unfortunately, the knowledge of these chemically laced herbs fell into the wrong hands and ended up being manufactured for human consumption. By 2004, synthetic herbs such as spice and K2 started springing up in head shops everywhere and became popular among a young demographic. Shortly thereafter came a wave of emergency calls to poison control centers, visits to emergency rooms, and even some fatalities.

Research suggests that the dangers of synthetic cannabis are increased tenfold when consumed with other chemicals such as alcohol and tobacco.

Are spice and K2 similar to real cannabis?

These dangerous artificial herbs may have some similar effects to cannabis, however, they are hardly similar otherwise. Cannabis may lead to a temporarily increased heart rate and some mental health effects, but it is nowhere near as dangerous as its synthetic counterpart. As far as anyone knows, nobody has ever overdosed and lost their lives from smoking weed.

In contrast to real cannabis, these synthetics can be fatal. A study conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney Australia revealed that between 2000 and 2017 there was reportedly 55 cases of synthetic cannabinoid related deaths. In 2018 in the US synthetic cannabis contributed to 8 deaths in that year alone.

In terms of using it, synthetic cannabis is quite similar to the real stuff. Just like cannabis, spice and K2 can be rolled up in a joint or smoked out of a pipe. They are also sold in liquid form and used in vaporizers and laced in traditional cigarettes.

Experts have warned the public that the exact chemicals found in synthetic marijuana are unknown and aren't chemically related to cannabis. Therefore, "synthetic cannabis" or "fake weed" are actually misleading terms.

The cannabinoid system in the human body responds to synthetic marijuana in the same way as cannabis, however, at a much stronger level. These synthetic chemicals are nearly 100 times more potent than THC. Furthermore, these artificial herbs are highly addictive.

In relegating cannabis to the shadows of illegality, we are left with cheap, chemical-ridden, and often dangerous alternatives. Even much of the cannabis purchased on the black market has its issues. Paradoxically, if you want to ensure people aren't smoking the bad stuff, you have to make sure the good stuff is legal.

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Casey Peternell
Casey Peternell

Casey is a media and content creator with a keen eye for creativity. Casey is currently in the process of obtaining a double bachelors degree in Media & Communications and Business from Swinburne University in Melbourne.

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