Compilation of synthetic marijuana posts (Spice, K2)

Welcome to readers arriving from Reddit – scroll down through the post for links to our more detailed discussions on cannabimimetics. (updated 8 October)

Recent media coverage of our writings on the chemistry, pharmacology, public health risks, and regulation of synthetic marijuana herbal incense products has led us to put together a compilation of posts we’ve written here on the topic over the last year-and-a-half.

One is legal, one is not. Sort of.

Synthetic marijuana is a term used to describe a collection of herbal products labeled as incense or potpourri to which one or more marijuana-like chemicals have been added. Unlike with the naturally-occurring marijuana or cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa, these herbal products contain chemicals made in the laboratory. These chemicals, called cannabimimetics for their ability to mimic the effects of cannabis, are potentially more powerful than the chemicals made by the marijuana plant. Their side effects have led to a surge in emergency room visits and poison control center reports, thankfully the urgent care centers in Los Angeles from have taken care of it.

Many of these chemicals were first made in 1990s in the laboratory of Professor John W. Huffman, a now-retired chemistry professor at Clemson University for the purpose of identifying the parts of a molecule responsible for the psychotropic effects of marijuana. These research tools were referred to by the prefix “JWH-” followed by a number (e.g., JWH-018) and recreational chemists in Europe began making and selling these agents around 2004, mixed with legal aromatic herbs and sold predominantly by the name “Spice.” Now illegal in most of Europe, Scandanavia, and the former Soviet republics, these compounds began to be sold in the US over the last three years. A similar wave of prohibition is now occurring across the US and the federal drug regulatory agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has temporarily moved five cannabimimetics to the most restrictive class of controlled substances, Schedule I.

The following list is a compilation of our writing on the topic here at Terra Sigillata.


What’s the buzz?: Synthetic marijuana, K2, Spice, JWH-018

  • First appearing in February 2009, this is our classic, first-stop post explaining the background on these products and the compounds they contain.

DEA already admits defeat on synthetic marijuana ban?

  • This post from March 2011 describes how the US DEA prohibition on five synthetic cannabimimetics is already being circumvented by creative marketers.

“Synthetic marijuana” chemist John W. Huffman interviewed on regional NPR program

  • This January 2011 post discusses a Charlotte, NC, NPR interview with Professor Huffman from his home in western North Carolina.

Strong chemistry in NC bills banning legal highs
NC legislators aim to clean up “bath salt” omission

  • This pair of February 2011 posts provide uses my local North Carolina examples of state legislation being enacted to criminalize synthetic cannabimimetics and unrelated “bath salt” compounds containing unrelated drugs such as mephedrone and MDPV.

Mephedrone in the US

  • This post compares and contrasts 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC, mephedrone) with synthetic marijuana, pointing specifically at these two posts by my neuropharmacology colleague who writes under the name DrugMonkey.

iAroma synthetic marijuana and the loss of Max Dobner

  • This post from July 2011 details The Today Show appearance by the mother of a northern Illinois high school graduate who died under the influence of iAroma-brand of synthetic marijuana after crashing his car into a house.

Synthetic marijuana for pharmacists

  • This February 2011 post points the reader toward an excellent primer for health care professionals written by clinical pharmacists at the University of Texas at Austin as well as coverage of our writing by TIME HealthLand writer, Maia Szalavitz.

About Dr. David J. Kroll
Why Terra Sigillata?

  • Finally, these two posts are for new readers who may wish to learn more about Dr. Kroll as well as where the idea came from for the name of the blog.

If you have any links that you wish to add to this list from other writers, please feel free to drop a link in the comment below. If you leave more than one link your comments with be referred to my moderation queue but I will approve it the next time I log in.

Author: David Kroll

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  1. Kudos to all the scientists trying to do legitimate work in order to fight chronic pain and intractable depression in patients whom would otherwise be without hope. All of this red-tape is sure to set science back at least a few years if not decades. Lawmakers are scum – we all know it. Boycott all of these fake elections. Protest the next election by wearing an anonymous mask and carrying a sign “They’re alike! Elect Rombama!”. If the New World Order Gestapo makes you remove your mask so that your face must be visible – turn it around and wear it on the back of your head. (For every obstacle they place in our paths is but a challenge and a chance to prove our moral and intellectual superiority.) Science is out-pacing law.(Guess we need more lawyer scum??? lol) I feel pity for lawmakers, so sad that they have to invent enemies and problems to insure their own job security. We are anonymous, we are legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. And – buy the way we have a weapon that is undefeatable (the Walesa)- solidarity., humor, a commitment to nonviolent protest and the tenacity of Andrew Jackson. See you all soon in the new FREE United States where the constitution has been restored to it’s status of a sacred document on which all law is base. No more using the constitution for TP Mr. Bush. In spite of what your ivy league intellect may believe – The Constitution of our great land is NOT “just a goddamned piece of paper.” Long live Andrw Jackson, Huey Long, James Forrstal and the last President of the United States of America Dwight D. Eisenhower!
    Stock up on seeds – renewable “hemp” that they can’t tax! That tears at the like an inguinal hernia. Suppose they could each get a truss but the word trust isn’t in their vocabularies.
    OH and a last warning about stocking up on seeds. You’d better hurry before Monsanto decides to make them Round-Up ready tm.

  2. Can some one explain why doctors and scientists are still saying its to early to tell. The facts are there, teen and mother of 2 dead in illinois, kids being hospitalized, illegal in other countries!!ILLEGAL IN OTHER COUNTRIES!!!!, for gods sake even Dr. John W. Huffman who created it says it will cause you harm. Just because the united states was the last to here about it doesn’t change the fact that it hasn’t done any good to any one. Its being sold as a mix of herbs that not only look like marijuana but smell and feel like marijuana and when smoke have similar effects to marijuana. The only difference between the 2 is that in the centuries that marijuana has been in use it hasn’t claimed one life but has helped many, while in the 10 to 15 years its been on the market this synthetic cannabinoid has harmed plety of people.
    “Not for human consupmtion”, yet the first thing your here about it is that’s its a legal alternative to marijuana, yes a legal way to get high like marijuana, “legal pot” its being called in the news. Yes, the synthetic cannabinoid was not intended for human consumption but then why sell it with such a ressemblence to the marijuana plant. You wanted marijuana to be the reefer madness in the 50’s but that did not happen n it will never happen now that we have created our own marijuana look alike we have created the true reefer madness facts are there the people just need to wake up.

  3. Btw I’m not saying get after Dr. Huffman and the research team or encarcerate the people that are selling the “legal pot” in stores I’m saying ban it n take it off the shelves done and done. Besides I think we just found that the government is not afraid of a high similar to marijuana so why not just sell marijuana in the stores.

  4. My grandson had a psychotic break 2 weeks ago. He had been a chronic smoker of K2 and had quit smoking it for weeks as he wanted to go into the Marines. He is in a mental hospital now without a good prognosis. I was told this week that he may be like this the rest of his life. He is delusional and can’t tell the difference between reality & fantasy. He is violent at times and hit me in the face, sent me to ER, hit the nurse in ER. He said he didn’t mean to do it. He has a good side and a bad side and we were on his bad side. He has a police record now from assaulting officers that fateful night. It has been a nightmare and continues to be… His whole life possibly wasted because of this horrible stuff. I am a Christian but I have a stong desire to do harm to these people who knowingly sold it to our grandson and others. His brain can’t process simple information on days and he has to be medicated all the time. They also tell us that they do not know the long term effects of it yet. In our case it is not looking very good.

    • Hi heartbroken Grandma,
      I am so sorry to hear about your grandson. I’m praying for the best. I am in a similar situation as my boyfriend is in the hospital after smoking spice. I was wondering how your grandson is doing now? Thanks for sharing!

  5. In 2011, I smoked some Synthetic Marijuana blend (K2/Spice/Synthetic Weed/Research Cannibinoids/Research Chemicals). For all those unaware, this is a plant-based blend sprayed with different kind of research chemicals that mimic the effect from THC (the active ingredient of Marijuana). The effects were much stronger, although shorter lasting than that of Marijuana. For the majority of 2011, I juggled between Marijuana and this new Synthetic Drug. Most smoke-shops, gas stations, and delis pitch this product as a safe legal alternative to Marijuana. Not wanting to get into anymore trouble with the law, not wanting to get in trouble at work, and just looking for something better and safer, I completely made the switch to these new drugs in 2012. ALERT: These drugs are nothing like Marijuana. They are extremely addicting, mind-altering, soul-hijacking, and dangerously adverse to your health, with long-term abuse causing organ failure and mental retardation NATIONWIDE. It caused me to hit rock-bottom a number of times, but each time I’d get clean, I just kept relapsing. I was getting clean just so that I could go back to eventual abuse. There is no such thing as moderation for a person with the disease of addiction. There is only ABSTINENCE. Once I flew back out to Seattle in January, I struggled with staying away from K2/Spice/Synthetic Weed. Although I was already working, I secured an even better job out there at Wyndham Vacation Ownership and I made it a priority to get clean and stay clean for this new and exciting task. A few days later, I was suffering from such intense withdrawals, I thought I was literally going to DIE. I was vomitting, convulsing, having heart palpitations, was down to 129Lbs and crying one minute-hysterically while laughing the next (I had a manic-psychotic episode.) As hard as I was trying to handle this all on my own, I got to scared that I wasn’t going to make it and phoned home for HELP. For the first time ever, I told my mother and father, the absolute truth about everything. From one look at me, my loving dad put me on the next flight home. That was 10 days ago. Since then, the truth has set me free and we have all learned so much about how to get better from this sickness. I have hurt so many people throughout these past few years, I’ve lost friends, jobs, money, and not to mention some health, but amends can only come in time. I am writing this because I am brave and I am willing to fight my disease for the rest of my life. My disease has no cure and it is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease. It is a CANCER of the brain, body, and soul. Therefore I must be more cunning, baffling, and more powerful than my disease if I want to live. I must remember that I am forever in recovery and although I might feel better TODAY, I am more of an addict today than I was yesterday, because my disease a progressive one. That’s okay though, don’t run! I will progress in my treatment and battle against it. Progress – NOT PERFECTION. The truth is, I have one more hit of Marijuana in me, one more cigarette, one more joint of synthetic drugs, one more spin of the roulette wheel, one more cup of coffee, one more sip of alcohol, one more bite of chocolate, BUT I HAVE NO MORE RECOVERIES IN ME. I would be more of a liar than I ever was to think that one more anything would be any different than pulling the trigger in a game of Russian roulette for the 6th time. SUICIDE. I hope people who read this can find it in their hearts to forgive me sometime in the future for all the pain I may have caused them. I hope people who read this support me in my fight for my life. I hope people that read this understand that not EVERYONE is doing drugs, drinking, or smoking Marijuana. DON’T DO DRUGS. I hope that anyone who reads this who thinks that might have a problem, or know someone who has a problem, GETS HELP. There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about struggling with an addiction, the only thing wrong is trying to do it on your own or denying that there is a problem. Don’t wait for the person to come to their scenes on their own, there mind is to clouded to do that. Intervene, find help, do something, before it is too late. I am lucky, that I have such loving friends, family, and support from all around. Others were not as lucky. I am not going to start making amends just yet, that can only come with time. The best way I can say I’m sorry for now is by STAYING SOBER and being ABSTINENT. The other way I can get better is by spreading the message, sharing the truth, and trying to save others. Thank you for reading this.

    IF YOU NEED HELP, CALL ME RIGHT NOW – (206) 280-5931 – VLAD

    For those who still think that Synthetic Marijuana/K2/Spice/Synthetic Weed/Research Cannibinoids/Research Chemicals is safe, visit this page, and pay a tribute to all those who DIED from these drugs. The best way we can honor their memory is by staying away from DRUGS and warning others.

    Shelby WashingtonBrian FifeSteve BuckAnn CrosslerGeorge KhitaridzeGeorge InakavadzeEugene ZelenyiLev AnikstEllen BatrshinEmil Duval

    Too many people that helped save my life to mention here, BUT THANK YOU ALL, I love each and everyone of you and I love life. Be well to all.


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