What Is Synthetic Marijuana and Cannabinoids? (and Why You Should Avoid It)
We’ve never hidden the fact that we love cannabis. It's natural as it comes and offers a huge array of potential health benefits when used responsibly. Therefore, we think it’s one of the greatest things planet earth has ever created.
Synthetic marijuana, however, is another matter entirely.
You might have heard of it already, perhaps under another name like spice or K2. But what exactly is synthetic weed, and are there any dangers to using it?
We’re here to let you know everything you need to know about synthetic marijuana. We’ll dive into everything more in-depth as we go, but we’ll start with an overview.
Synthetic marijuana… isn’t marijuana at all. It’s a man-made substance which some people choose to use instead of or as well as marijuana and other substances. Though it often comes in colorful and attractive little packages, synthetic marijuana comes with some serious risks too.
Much of this risk comes from the man-made nature of the product. Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals that proclaim to have a similar effect to that of THC, the psychoactive compound in regular cannabis. These synthetic cannabinoids are then most commonly sprayed onto dried herbs or plant material which can be smoked.
Let's kick things off with a look at what these chemicals actually are.
What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids?
To start, it is important to make sure one thing is clear: Synthetic cannabinoids absolutely aren’t cannabinoids. In scientific terms, they’re a structural analog. This is a compound that is similar to another compound, but differing in specific components.
What this means for so-called synthetic cannabinoids is, while they’re not cannabinoids, they interact with the same receptors as cannabinoids.
Another quick science lesson for those out of the loop: By receptors, we mean the ones within the human’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is the biological system that allows cannabis to have the great effects it has on your body. THC, the primary psychoactive cannabinoid, latches to CB1 receptors within this system to produce the euphoric high it’s known for.
Synthetic cannabinoids also bind to the CB1 receptors, but with much more potency. A study suggested synthetic cannabinoids can be up to 100 times more potent than THC.
How Are Synthetic Cannabinoids Made?
The idea of synthetic cannabinoids was born way back in the 1980s from chemist John William Huffman, or JWH.
JWH began synthesizing cannabinoids for medical research funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. It wasn’t until some of his work was published in 2008 that another lab in Germany picked up one of his cannabinoids JWH-018 and manufactured it commercially for recreational use.
From here, its popularity soared. Cheap to produce and not yet limited by the FDA, every drug manufacturer wanted a piece of the pie.
Nowadays, most synthetic cannabinoids are produced in China and shipped. Manufacturers produce the blends by using high-proof alcohol or acetone solvents. Yes, that’s the same acetone that’s in your nail polish remover and paint stripper.
These solvents are used to dissolve the synthetic molecules. The substance is then sprayed onto a plant substance, though sometimes the plant substance is soaked instead. This is how it eventually becomes the synthetic cannabis you see on the shelves or online.
What Is Synthetic Marijuana (Fake Weed) and Is It Legal?
While synthetic marijuana is most commonly sold as a dry plant substance, it can come in other forms. This includes liquids to be vaporized or synthetic marijuana sprays. These may also be known as herbal or liquid incense.
Though it’s marketed as an alternative to cannabis, the actual effects of synthetic marijuana can be quite different. Some of this is due to the production we mentioned above.
Nobody, bar the manufacturers, really knows what chemicals are in a synthetic marijuana product. This in itself is a danger. Batch to batch may vary entirely, having unpredictable effects on the user.
In addition to this, production may also be careless. As the synthetic cannabinoids are sprayed onto the plant substance, this may be done carelessly. It results in uneven distribution of the substance.
This means many products have “hot spots” of strength. The user may end up smoking more of the weaker spots, thinking they have built up a tolerance, and then suddenly hit a hot spot of cannabinoid spray.
Is Synthetic Marijuana Legal?
Synthetic marijuana is part of a group of drugs known as NPS. This stands for New Psychoactive Substances. They’re fairly new to the market, and regulation is only just catching up.
There isn’t one synthetic marijuana like there is with the species of plant, which brings in difficulties. The FDA has banned many specific synthetic cannabinoids. Lots of states and local governments have similarly targeted certain synthetic cannabinoids.
But there are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids. So as quickly as governments ban one, another crops up.
In response to this, many state laws have focused on banning categories of ingredients instead of specific chemicals. Manufacturers have responded to this by creating new products from new chemicals, as well as labeling them “not for human consumption”.
All this is to say there’s no easy answer to whether synthetic marijuana is legal or not. Many of the chemicals used in production are not, but the new production methods keep allowing products to appear on the shelves. They make bold claims like “legal high” or “natural high”,
Many people think of synthetic marijuana as a safe, legal alternative to cannabis. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Why Should You Avoid Fake Marijuana and Cannabinoids
We’ve covered above how irresponsibly fake marijuana may be produced, and how that in itself is a danger. But what about the actual effects of consuming synthetic marijuana products?
Starting with the good, for some users, synthetic marijuana may produce similar effects to consuming natural cannabis. This includes feeling happy and relaxed, experiencing hunger pangs, or becoming talkative.
How long the effects of consuming synthetic cannabis last depend on a variety of factors. How much you’ve consumed, your physical size, and other drugs consumed will all be a factor.
Because synthetic cannabis is much more potent than natural cannabis, it’s common to use too much and experience the negative side effects. These can include less severe effects such as feeling ill or paranoid. But there can be more severe reactions, including the following:
Irritability and aggression
Dizziness and drowsiness
Hallucinations and delusions
In the worst instances, synthetic marijuana use can cause death. There have been rising cases of hospitalization cited from overdoses linked to synthetic marijuana use.
Synthetic Marijuana Side Effects
Synthetic marijuana is also linked to a whole host of other health problems. These commonly include breathing and gastrointestinal problems as well as high blood pressure. But new research suggests long-term use may also be linked to kidney failure, muscle damage, and cardiovascular failure.
One of the biggest dangers of synthetic cannabis is its addictiveness. There isn’t enough research yet to definitively state whether synthetic marijuana is addictive. That said, many long-term users have reported withdrawal symptoms.
Synthetic marijuana withdrawal symptoms include the following:
Vomiting and nausea
These withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on how heavy the usage was and for how long. If you or someone you know become sick after using synthetic marijuana, seek immediate medical attention.
Fake Weed Brands Most Found for Sale - K2/Spice
Now you know the various dangers of synthetic marijuana, you need to know what to look out for. Just what does synthetic marijuana look like?
Fake weed is widely available. There’s a huge online market for it, but you’ll also find it in many head shops. It comes under a huge variety of brand names, with the two most popular being Spice and K2.
Spice is unpredictable and widely regarded as dangerous within the cannabis community. The chemicals and batches vary often, making user’s unable to know their limits. Common side effects include vomiting, extreme anxiety, hallucinations, and violent behavior.
In the most serious instances, Spice has been linked with a few deaths.
K2 is similarly dangerous. Users have had seizures, extreme bouts of aggression, and many overdoses.
Other popular brands of synthetic cannabis for sale include:
Most of these come in colorful, shiny baggies. They’re very attractive to naive consumers. As we mentioned above, though, plant form is not the only way synthetic marijuana may be consumed.
As a general rule of thumb, to play it safe, avoid all products claiming to be legal highs.
Stick to Natural
The best way to avoid the potential dangers and side effects of synthetic marijuana is to steer clear. We recommend sticking to natural cannabis products, which you can browse to your heart’s content in our online store.