Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic Cannabinoids/Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana consists of plant material that has been treated with substances that mimic THC, the primary psychoactive active ingredient in marijuana. It is marketed as a “legal high.” It important to note, that while synthetics may act on the same parts of the body or brain as THC, the effects are often very different. Jason Jerry, MD from the Cleveland Clinic Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center notes “Synthetic cannabinoids clearly seem to be sending more people to emergency departments around the country than natural marijuana.”

Synthetic marijuana is often sold as incense or potpourri. It can be sold in stores, as most are clearly labeled “not for human consumption.” Some common names of synthetic marijuana are: K2, Spice Skunk, K3, Genie, Sence, Smoke, Moon rocks, Arma, Red X Dawn, Sky High and Scooby snacks.

What does synthetic marijuana look like?

synthetic marijuana3


K2 images


What are some of the signs and symptoms of use?  

One of the challenges of synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drug use is it will not show up on a drug test. Signs of Spice/K2 use are strong clove smell, coffee grinder (the finer the powder the easier to smoke), drug paraphernalia such as pipes and screens.

Symptoms of use include:

      • Increased heart rate
      • Increased blood pressure
      • Paranoid behavior
      • Agitation and irritability
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Confusion
      • Drowsiness
      • Headache
      • Electrolyte abnormalities
      • Seizures
      • Acute renal failure
      • In some instances significant negative effects to the cardiovascular and central nervous symptoms

What are the effects of Synthetic Marijuana?

      • Onset in 3-5 minutes
      • Duration of 1-8 hours
      • Short term effects of dysphoria (opposite of euphoria)
      • Paranoia as strong or similar to PCP/Angel Dust
      • Delusions, hallucinations and increased agitation
      • Loss of physical control -–a brain-body disconnect resulting in seizures, lack of pain response or uncontrolled/spastic body movements.


What is being done to reduce access to these products?

Teens perceive legal to mean safe. These products are not safe.

In Massachusetts, law enforcement has begun seizing the product under the under a state law prohibiting the sale of substances that, when inhaled, alter one’s state of mind.Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 270, Section 18, forbids the intentional inhalation of “fumes of any substance having the property of releasing toxic vapors, for the purpose of causing a condition of intoxication, euphoria, excitement, exhilaration, stupefaction, or dulled senses or nervous system, nor possess, buy or sell any such substance for the purpose of violating or aiding another to violate this section.”

In the US Congress, according to the White House ONDCP, The Synthetic Drug Control Act (HR 1254) was approved by the House of Representatives on December 8, 2011. The Department of Justice has issued a “views letter” in support of the Act. There are several pieces of legislation concerning synthetic drugs pending in the Senate, including one that deals specifically with synthetic cannabinoids.