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Legal or Not, Synthetic Marijuana is Here to Stay

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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When will they learn?

 I have some questions? Why would the government crack down on a substance unless they are looking for a new profit stream. The cops know that cannabis will be legal soon and they are looking ahead at keeping their jobs. Where will all that slave labour go if the prisons are not keep full? Full prisons means big profits. Follow the money - Free Marc Emery!  

"The cops know that cannabis

"The cops know that cannabis will be legal soon and they are looking ahead at keeping their jobs."


I don't think we even need impute this much foresight to them. Anyone who buys into cannabis prohibition despite overwhelming evidence that it causes more harm than good is basically taking a faith-based stance, and can be expected to support the criminalisation of drug users for its own sake. They must know that cannabis prohibition is the keystone of the whole drugs prohibition apparatus - and that if that falls, the whole spectacle is reduced from a national crusade to a mere sideshow, as Mike Gray puts it in Drug Crazy. So anything that would call into question the principle of cannabis prohibition (such as, the non-prohibition of a somewhat cannabis-like drug) must be resisted to shore up the ideological foundations of cannabis prohibition. Some of them perhaps don't know that they are just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, but that'll be their problem when sense and justice finally win the day.

Drug cartels are writing their thank you letters to Leonhart

I can see them moving on to this stuff instead of bothering with the hassle of growing and smuggling bulky smelly marijuana.  They don't care about quality or safety.  If there's plenty of demand for this product, they will go in the direction of the quickest buck.

a couple questions

1. If JW... is a THC analogue, in states with medical marijuana acceptance, how can they be illegal? 2.Under the Federal Analog Act anything that is substantially similar to the newly banned chemicals could also be outlawed. Making the market for them redundant if not futile. Anyone care to comment? Thanks.

A couple of questions

It's not a THC analogue. Different compound, altogether.

can you say "kickbacks"?...

if you smell a huge payoff to the DEA from the private prison industry.. then your not alone...

How about the payoff from the Marinol manufacturers?

I saw somewhere on the internet that 20 mg of legal Marinol can cost $1050 per month or $12500 per year.  Banning one synthetic THC substance to keep another market booming.  Last thing Big Pharma wants is people buying any cannabinoid OTC.

marinol cant compete against illegal marijuana...

not at those prices...

however..marijuana and cannabinoids do compete against many pharmaceuticals markets.. and the fibers compete against nylon ropes...and the nylon rope ppl are oil companies that a) sell raw materials to big pharma.. and b) are intimately tied to prison/military companies such as haliburton and blackwater...


DEA is proposing a rule to allow generic Marinol

Actually DEA received petitions from four companies and now has an NPRM to place generic equivalents of Marinol, including naturally-derived dronabinol (i.e., from the plant) in Schedule III which it intends to do. Go to  and search for Docket No. DEA-344 to read and/or comment on the NPRM.

<blockquote> This proposed action expands the schedule III listing to include
formulations having naturally-derived dronabinol and products
encapsulated in hard gelatin capsules. This would have the effect of
transferring the FDA-approved versions of such generic Marinol[supreg]
products from schedule I to schedule III.</blockquote>

  I don't think a payoff from the manufacturer of Marinol is a likely explanation of this DEA move to place five other cannabinoids in Schedule I at this time though I'm sure the big pharmacy companies don't want any OTC competition. Do they ever? The timing of Hatch's letter/petition, Leonhart's confirmation hearing and the filing of  FR Doc. 2010-29600 aka         a   ada DEA_FRDOC_0001-0075 aka Docket No. DEA-345N  appears a likelier explanation though I don't know if the way delegation of authority to schedule is structured would have allowed her to recuse herself to avoid the appearance of corruption and have someone else sign and do the paperwork/handling. Paperwork/handling which appears to me to be so flawed as to make the notice invalid and leave her or someone in DEA at risk of reprimand for "unprofessional conduct" or "professional misconduct" (I forget which is the correct term, look it up at DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility's site if interested).

These unscheduled cannabinoids availability is a business threat to pharmaceutical companies and prescribers though I don't know how aware of the threat they are. None of the news stories I've come across have indicated the reporters even know some "spice type products" are being used for analgesic and other medical reasons. A phenomena which mostly seems to be because the medical system is so expensive and has become such a police system that failure to prescribe appropriate medicines in appropriate amounts or failure to prescribe appropriate medicines at all is so common people are increasingly looking for help outside the system. I can't generally recommend using them as medicine since I don't actually know the ingredients or their amounts in any particular product or what interactions they might have. Indeed, except to people I personally know I'm reluctant to recommend anything except using caution, best available knowledge and common sense in choosing whether to use any of these products for any reason and how to use them if one decides to. And to keep in mind that "fake marijuana" is a propaganda term and not to be mislead into expecting them to be essentially the same or necessarily similar in safety or effects. They are what they are. It's important to respect that about all drugs and especially about "mystery drugs".

chadstanton's picture

How To Legalize Marijuana In Texas

Here is a roadmap to legalization in Texas I recently wrote I'm seriously trying to do this any help would be appreciated.

Only the beginning...

It's not just JWH-018 (the active ingredient in K2), there are a wide variety of easy-to synthesize cannabinoid mimics in the literature.  Any successful testing program will eventually be faced with the rise of chemically distinct cannabinoids that new tests have to be developed for.

The drug war

is the foundation of the police/surveillance state.  Without prohibition 2.0 the police/surveillance state could never have arisen in this country.  It will take a lot more than just ending prohibition, though, to dismantle the police/surveillance state, now that it is so heavily entrenched and being bolstered by the [fake*] war on terror.

*   NSC Study Shows You are More Likely to Killed By a Cop Than a Terrorist


--You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

--You are 9 times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

--You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

Follow this link (, the list is much longer and shows just how far down on the scale terrorism is as far as dangerous situations for Americans go.

Extreme Pacifist's picture

Synthetic vs. Natural Marijuana

Hi,     I have been researching synthetic marijuana and K2 Spice and it's active ingredient: JWH-18, as well as other man made cannabinoids.    There is a doctor from Hebrew University, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who discovered THC and has been a leading researcher and developer of synthetic marijuana.    He seems to be at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement.    My concern is that he is developing    and promoting synthetic marijuana, instead of just studying natural marijuana, and I believe he is doing this to produce and market another man made chemical to empower and enrich the large pharmaceutical corporations, and when medical marijuana becomes legal everywhere, then big pharma will make billions selling fake marijuana.   Here is my letter to the good doctor: Dr. Mechoulam,     Why develop synthetic marijuana ? Why not just grow, study, and promote natural marijuana?    How are your JWH cannabinoids delivered and applied to non THC plants, herbs, and spices, and what companies process and package your synthetic marijuana that is being sold as incense?                           Peace, Tony Soldo
Extreme Pacifist's picture

What is K2 Spice JWH-018

Spice is not a natural plant. The plants or herbs found in Spice do not contain any active ingredients, the active ingredients, JWH-018 and JWH-073, are man made chemicals, and are added to the herbs. These man made chemicals were developed by John Huffman at Clemson University, as part of a government funded project. Marijuana is a natural plant, Spice, spiked with JWH-018 and JWH-073, is not natural, this fact needs to be understood and promoted if we are to address this problem. If we outlaw Spice, someone will find another man made chemical to spray on some other herb or plant. Maybe we should focus on the chemists developing these chemicals, and the government's secret research projects. Take some time to research these chemicals and projects for yourself. Here are some links: JWH-018 List of JWH Cannabinoids HU-210

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