What is Synthetic Marijuana?

You’ve probably heard the term “synthetic marijuana” and wondered what exactly it is. You may have seen it on the shelf at a local gas station, or read about its disastrous effects in the news. Either way, you still might not have a clear concept of what this stuff is, where it came from, and what it does. We’re going to tell you what you need to know about this drug, and why it’s so dangerous.

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What is Synthetic Marijuana?

Spice Packet

The first thing to know is that “synthetic marijuana” has nothing whatsoever to do with cannabis. The name comes from the fact that the product is a man-made cannabinoid, a chemical that binds to the cannabinoid receptors we have in our brains. While these synthetic cannabinoids take action in the same brain areas as natural cannabis, the results they produce are drastically different.

In an effort to make the drug more appealing to a wide pool of consumers, manufacturers decided to label these synthetic cannabinoids as “synthetic marijuana” since the mechanics are somewhat similar in function. To make it even more innocuous, the chemical is presented as a cannabis-like plant matter, despite being completely man-made.

Other names for synthetic marijuana include “K2” and “Spice”

Where did it come from?

In the 1980’s, the National Institute on Drug Abuse funded medical research intended to help understand how cannabinoids worked. As part of this research, an organic chemistry professor at Clemson University began synthesizing hundreds of new types of cannabinoids.

The researcher, John William Huffman, meant the new cannabinoids to be used as tools in understanding more about cannabis, but in 2008 it became clear that at least one of his cannabinoids had made it out of the lab.

It had cropped up in a German facility, where they began calling it “Spice” and started offering it to those willing to try a new and untested intoxicant. These days, most commercially available synthetic marijuana comes from unregulated Chinese manufacturers.

How is it made?

dangerxxxSynthetic marijuana is made through a soak or spray process. The synthetic material is bathed in a solvent to make an easily-applied solution. Plant material is sprayed or dunked in the solution, and left to dry.

One of the notorious dangers of K2 and Spice is that poor mixing or uneven spraying can leave you with a product that’s incredibly potent in some places and practically harmless in other areas of the batch. This makes it extremely difficult to consume safely.

What does it do?

Synthetic cannabinoids target the CB1 receptors in your brain, just like real marijuana does. However, these cannabinoids trigger a much greater response, with a huge variety of negative effects. In fact, synthetic marijuana can be anywhere from 2 to 100 times more powerful than THC. This can lead to horrific side effects such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain & increased heart rate
  • Headaches & vision blackout
  • Kidney damage
  • Psychosis

And if that weren’t enough, synthetic marijuana is highly addictive and can trigger significant withdrawal symptoms when a user quits.

The variety in synthetic cannabinoids on the market is also a crucial concern, as different products can produce wildly different side effects.

The Bottom Line

In case what you weren’t sure yet: DO NOT try this stuff. You’re essentially getting a random chemical masquerading as weed. It’s guaranteed to mess with your brain and is most likely to do it in a dangerous and unpleasant manner. Our advice is: stick with the all natural, green stuff created by Mother Earth.


Article By: Spencer Grey