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Legal or Not, Synthetic Marijuana is Here to Stay

Submitted by smorgan on

Spice was destined to become a phenomenon. For decades, magazines like High Times have advertised famously fake pot products that apparently sold well enough to support a robust marketing campaign, despite being completely useless. Anyone could have predicted that a legal marijuana substitute capable of producing the familiar buzz of pot itself would be massively successful. That's exactly what happened, and regardless of the pending federal ban announced this month by the DEA, there's good reason to believe this drug is here stay.

At first glance, you might think prohibition could prove uncharacteristically effective against a drug whose primary selling point is its legality. Once you take away the convenient retail sales and freedom from arrest, synthetic marijuana begins to lose its competitive advantage over the real thing. As prices rise and purity begins to fluctuate, many users may revert back to the established illicit marijuana market, rather than making the effort to hunt down a formerly over-the-counter product that no longer comes with any form of quality assurance. Good pot, with its distinctive look and smell, is a lot harder to counterfeit than a bag of random leafy crap laced with chemicals, and the inevitable proliferation of weak or fake products on the black market could badly damage the drug's appeal.

Nevertheless, K2/Spice possesses one unique characteristic that ensures its survival: it will remain an effective option for getting high and still passing a drug test. Drug screening products allegedly capable of identifying the unique compounds contained in K2/Spice are beginning to enter the market, but an industry-wide overhaul incorporating new technology will be far too costly to implement in an organized or efficient manner. The situation is potentially profitable for the scumbags in the drug testing industry, but it's a big headache for agencies and employers who've already spent thousands only to find that they're no longer covering all the bases.

Moreover, even a full-scale effort to incorporate K2/Spice into routine drug testing programs will be undermined considerably by the composition of the drug itself. As Forensic Science International explains:

Due to the high affinity of these compounds to the cannabinoid receptors, their effective dose is lower than that of the marijuana products resulting in a low concentration of the excreted metabolites accompanied by a higher psychoactive potency.

The small size of an active dose makes it far more difficult to identify than marijuana, and that's a significant advantage. The drug testing industry has long thrived on marijuana's uniquely prolonged presence in the body, which makes even casual users vulnerable to detection. K2/Spice is only detectable for 1-3 days after use depending on the amount consumed, compared to up to a month for marijuana. Given that testing is currently almost non-existent and will barely work even if widely implemented, the drug has already achieved notoriety as an enjoyable and drug-test-proof alternative to marijuana. This feature alone is enough to ensure continued demand and a profitable market for those willing to make it available.

Once the ban takes effect, police will be confronted with a potent, odorless, and easily concealed substance that's suddenly commanding high prices in the pot market. As distribution is pushed underground, new and more dangerous forms will emerge and the familiar horrors of prohibition will be exhibited before our eyes yet again, as another drug that was never meant to exist establishes a permanent foothold in the illicit market. Whatever unpleasantness arises from all of this will owe its origins entirely to the mindless war on marijuana, and it's truly the height of irony that K2/Spice will soon be subjected to the same failed prohibition policy that made it popular in the first place.

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