Drug Policy

The Next New Drug of Choice? Ersatz Marijuana!


Reason readers know we love "new drug of choice" stories, mostly imagined tales of dangerous new intoxicants sweeping the country, especially "the heartland," like hula hoops of yore. Coke is the new pot, which was the new crack after heroin was the new drug of choice, and on and on. And, lest we forget, pot was "the hula hoop of the Jet Generation!"

Here's the latest cycle: the fake pot product K2, a.k.a. "spice," "genie," or "zohai" (because all new threats need exotic, dangerous-sounding names). Sez AP in an article titled "Cops: Imitation pot as bad as the real thing,"

There may be nothing like the real thing, but some industrious marijuana users have seized on an obscure but easily accessible substance that mimics the drug's effects on the brain—creating a popular trade in legal dope that has stymied law enforcement authorities. The users are buying a product known as K2—or "Spice," Genie" and "Zohai"—that is commonly sold in head shops as incense. Produced in China and Korea, the mixture of herbs and spices is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Users roll it up in joints or inhale it from pipes, just like the real thing.

Though banned in most of Europe, K2's key ingredients are not regulated in the United States—a gap that has prompted lawmakers in Missouri and Kansas to consider new legislation.

"This isn't Jerry Garcia's marijuana," said state Rep. Jeff Roorda, a Democrat from the eastern Missouri town of Barnhart. "They've used chemicals to avoid creating something that's already illegal."…

A proposed bill in Missouri would make possession a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison—identical to punishments given to users of real marijuana. A similar bill in Kansas would make possession a misdemeanor punishable, with up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, also the same as marijuana convictions….

The worst part of it all? Even by reading about it, you may be part of the problem!

Conner Moore, 20, who is taking a semester off from Moberly Community College, said he and his friends started smoking K2 after reading online news articles and postings about the substance. He compares the high to smoking medical marijuana. The high, he says, is shorter.

Full story.

Bonus: Great moments in the drug war Kulturkampf.

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  1. “This isn’t Jerry Garcia’s marijuana,” said state Rep. Jeff Roorda.

    Jeff, if you’re going for the “tough on crime” image, you may want to rethink your metaphors. I don’t know what you look like, but if you’re got any facial hair, and that includes a “soul patch,” shave it off pronto.

  2. Jeez, I hate articles like this. Paragraphs and paragraphs mentioning the “key ingredients” and the synthetic “compound” without actually saying what it is. Are they trying to protect us from the dangerous knowledge of the precise chemical name(s)?

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JWH-018

      The article most likely refers to JWH-018, JWH-073, etc.

      Still a relatively cheap and potent alternative to cannabis. These chemicals may be significantly more dangerous than cannabis, but if that is the case it remains to be seen whether they begin to approach alcohol or tobacco with regards to negative consequences.

      If one were to purchase these chemicals, carefully choose your source and test your sample using absurdly minuscule doses to begin with and work your way up from there. Note that JWH-018 and perhaps some of the others may have a “creeper” effect and take 10-15 minutes to kick in, and that higher doses are often vastly less pleasant than the equivalent in cannabis.

      Also note: K2 and other “legal highs” may contain the above chemicals, and or other chemicals, or nothing at all.

      1. Thanks for the info. Seems like the only reason anyone would go for it is because the old-fashioned natural stuff is illegal.

        1. So they will enforce this K2 spending billions and billions of tax dollars while K2 becomes purer, cheaper and more available – just like every other drug they use prohibition enforcement on… Stupid tactic they just keep using over and over to utter failure

  3. “Cops: Imitation pot as bad as the real thing”

    So it’s going to kill zero people as well?

    1. It’s even worse than that. A male and female who smoke it together might actually create other people that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.

  4. God, I hope none of these assholes ever finds out what it’s like to fall in love. They’ll want to ban that too.

    1. “God, I hope none of these assholes ever finds out what it’s like to fall in love. They’ll want to ban that too.”

      A textual interpretation of the 1987 Analogue Act would surely deem love, emotions, children, pets, (these last two are nothing but drug manufacturers, and the former gives drugs away to kids!) and depending on your intent, everything in the universe to be prohibited.

      1. And don’t forget that orgasms are just another way for bad people to get high. But there is no test for females (the guys will get busted for traces of semen). Maybe they can somehow remove the orgasm from sex and let people just get a “natural” high on the joys of procreation in non-recreational intercourse – the only valid goal of sex. That’s why they call masturbation “self-abuse” – using your body just like a drug.

  5. Pot doesn’t kill people, policemen do.

    1. That was cold man.

  6. As bad as “the real thing”? Arguably it’s worse, since marijuana is about as close to harmless as you can get.

    Meanwhile, they’re smoking lawn clippings sprayed with chemicals synthesized in Korea (shudder!) or China (gros mal shudder!!)??!

    I guess you might take the view that since the Chinese have a talent for embuing almost anything with almost any chemical (pet food, baby formula, paint on toys), that any Chinese product, when smoked, has a fair chance of being mind-altering. But… you inhale that with lungs you plan on using later? Really?

    To paraphrase Sam Kennison: give us back our weed and we’ll stop smoking potpourri!

    I say this as a cannibis virgin. For aesthetic reasons, I choose to inflict brain damage with chemicals that are arbitrarily legal. But I also find that, with age, I come to the conclusion that America needs to get more high, and more often. There is some mental state where Joe Biden as VP makes sense, and we just need to keep on trying.

  7. It’s just like smoking pot, but with a shorter duration. You’re not out of commission for four-to-six hours with the legal stuff.

    1. Weed won’t knock you out for 4-6 hours either. Unless you smoke weed like a college student with a shiny new check from Mom.

  8. Conner Moore, 20, who is taking a semester off from Moberly Community College

    Good thing they found an expert.

    1. I turned down a citation offer . . . you know because of the whole anonymous thing. LOL


  9. Semi threadjack:
    Fascinating article in Slate about how the government intentionally poisoned alcohol during Prohibition, leading to as many as 10,000 deaths:

    “Burn the village to save the village” goes back some way.

    1. Saw that one and have been waiting for Reason to get around to it.

    2. John posted that on an earlier thread. Jacob Sullum’s probably typing away like mad right now…

      1. Damn, I hate it when people repost the same link from thread to thread.

    3. Reason has written articles about this.

  10. I totally scooped this last week.

  11. I’ve seen something like this packaged as Serenity around my parts. You can also get it online very easily. I would agree that it is arguably far more dangerous than marijuana if only because it’s an unknown. Marijuana on the other hand is known to be incredibly safe (provided you don’t go and do something stupid while intoxicated).

    1. Like come across a police officer.

      1. If you do come across a police officer, just wipe him off and apologize profusely.

        1. +1 (disturbingly)

    2. Serenity has been found to have lithium in it (I read that somewhere on the internet…).

      I’ve got a buddy in the infantry who says this shit is all the rage in the military, since they can’t smoke the real stuff they are smoking this shit constantly. The serenity stuff and another one called sparks (or something similar), as they stopped making the K2 stuff recently.

  12. “This isn’t Jerry Garcia’s marijuana” sounds awfully close to admitting that regular dope is harmless.

    1. Simply solution to eliminate the market for this K2 stuff: legalize the real thing.

  13. In other drug news:

    Ozzy wants Johnny Depp to play him

    Last Updated: 2:59 PM, January 28, 2010
    Posted: 1:23 AM, January 28, 2010

    Ozzy Osbourne fans can expect a big-screen version of his life springing from his new memoir, “I Am Ozzy.” “People are working on scripts right now,” The Prince of Darkness tells The Post’s Billy Heller. Who’ll star as the Godfather of Metal? “I’ve thought about Johnny Depp,” Osbourne says. “He’s one of the few actors who knows about rock ‘n’ roll who does a really good English accent.”

    1. Ozzy should be done entirely with CGI, like Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

      1. +1

        1. Wait, you mean he’s REAL?!?!?

    2. And yet Ozzy does a terrible English accent.

  14. Anybody want to fund my marijuana-flavored potato chip start up?

    1. Will you be making a bongwater flavored soda too? MMMMM DELICIOUS

      1. Yep. It’s a subtle blend that hints at the glass bubbler, ceramic Grim Reaper, fruit-tinged hookah and and well-worn gravity toker. I call it Melange-a-Melange.

  15. This stuff started getting big a few months ago. Spice happens to be the favorite drug for young adults on parole who still want to get high but get randomly drug tested. As an experimenter of this soon to be illegal substance I’d say smoke the real thing, its a replacement but not a good one. Like I said above, it’s for kids on parole.

  16. good thing the DEA isn’t doing anything yet. better to have a couple dumbass states ban it than the whole country. these cannabinoids in preliminary research appear to be not carcinogenic nor mutagenic and may fight cancer as well as treat other conditions cannabinoids have traditionally treated. they are relatively harmless substances, but even if they are dangerous they aren’t being sold for consumption, so if you do take it its at your own risk. personally I find it great for medical patients who can’t get access to legal cannabinoids/cannabis and accept the risk of taking a drug that is not well studied. its funny because Kansas proposed to legalize medical marijuana the same week they proposed the synthetic cannabinoid ban. its insanity, ALL cannabinoids should be legal! the UK and Germany as well as other countries have banned some of the synthetic cannabinoids but it doesn’t matter, there are an infinite amount of possible cannabinoids, ones that even get around analog laws.
    to consumers: just buy the pure compounds, you are getting ripped off when you buy spice-type products.
    these aren’t going away any time soon, hell there are even phytocannabinoids that are legal and similar to THC, they are found in certain liverworts!

    1. one more reason not to ban them is because that will make researching these drugs nearly impossible or at the least extremely difficult.

      1. and actually some of the JWH and CP compounds effects last longer than cannabis/hash. a few do have a shorter duration. the reason these people aren’t giving good descriptions is because they aren’t doing the pure compounds but smoking herbs laced with small doses of synthetic cannabinoids.

        1. Hacha Cha, what is/are the actual chemical(s)used in this stuff? I looked online, but all I found were people trying to sell me this crap and “scary” news stories. How the hell does this not fall under the analogs act? If you have a link to a msds or iupac name I would appreciate it.

          1. each company has their own proprietary blends and the ingredients are subject to change with the laws. but many of them contain JWH-018 and homologues of CP 47,497. there are thousands of JWH, CP, and WIN compounds. they also contain oleamide which interacts with cannabinoid receptors (made from oleic acid and urea). US customs has reported HU-210 but since that is CI here in the US I don’t think its in the new batches intended for the US.

            the psychoactive cannabinoids found in cannabis are in the chemical class known as Dibenzopyrans. many of the JWH compounds are Aminoalkylindoles and Aminoalkylpyrroles as well as other classes. they are structurally unique and do not fall under the definition of an analog drug under the US analog act.

  17. is this stuff salvia divinorum or is it synthetic cannibinoids?

    1. What, like Dronabinol?

      I don’t know. I’m sure there are plenty of semi-synthetics that can be easily made in one of Shulgin’s books Pihkal or Tihkal. Some kind of phenethylamines or tryptamines. It’s all good, when you know what the fuck you’re doing.

    2. not salvia divinorum, which is an unpleasant psychoactive.

      1. JWH-018 is a synthetic cannabinoid which acts at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It chemically does the same thing as THC but it’s a different chemical (it’s also stronger by a large margin but the effects do not last nearly as long). Also, salvia is NOT unpleasant, you just did it wrong. LOLOLOL.

  18. Oregano and the power of suggestion.

  19. From the “news” story:
    “If government is genuinely concerned about controlling cannabis-related products, there is really only one thing that seems to have an effect: a tax stamp,”

    I will now set myself on fire…

  20. It’s just another setback for Gods people what we need to do is pray!! The DEVIL has enough things already out there tempting us , besides is ok untill its hurts someone you love. Wake up it’s not ok!!!!!!!!!!

  21. This is what I don’t get. Pot is a natural grown plant. We add no chemicals to it, it just grows like that. But it’s ok to have chemicalized pot and sell that without causing any trouble. Hell I
    would rather get in trouble with the real stuff then
    be a full blown idiot by the time I’m 30 with all the unneeded chemicals.

  22. I have been smoking spice for more than one year now, the problem is that it is not consistant. I have smoked spice that is amazing and some that plain sucks. Finally, I decided to make my own batch. Yep!!! So I bought 1 gram and turned it into 50 grams of spice and the quality is the best I’ve had. Buying the pure JWH-018 is the key, I bought mine from mountainindustry.com. They seem to have the best stuff. Anyway, once you make your own, you will never buy spice again. Trust me. And I found a coupon code L27MHJ1 🙂

    1. incredible. a very legitimate offer disguised as spam.

  23. k2 varies from place to place, that’s why the reactions are just as varied. There is loads of counterfeit so be careful…

  24. There should definitely be age restrictions, but who am I to tell another adult that they can’t partake in a little fake weed. Grow up and get real….

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