Dangerous artificial marijuana, with names like K2 and Spice, is used less in states where Weed is Legalized
There's nothing nice or dreamy about synthetic weed, sold under such catchy names as AK-47, K2, Spice, Scoobie Snacks, Mr. Nice Guy and 24-Karat Dream.
Sometimes packaged as e-juice for vaping or as edibles, most synthetic cannabinoids are sold as dried plant materials sprayed with acetone, embalming fluid or other solvents laced with lab-made psychoactive substances.
Between 2010 and 2015, synthetic cannabis poisonings were on the rise, according to the ToxIC Case Registry, with more than 42,000 cases of toxic exposure reported during that time. However, those numbers may now be declining in states in which the use of recreational marijuana is permitted, said Tracy Klein, assistant director for the Center for Cannabis Policy, Research and Outreach at Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington.
She's the lead author of a study that found calls to poison centers about synthetic cannabinoid fell by more than a third between 2016 and 2019 in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
These products are made in a powdered format and could be sprayed on or added to something that looks exactly like natural cannabis. So, in a party situation, I could see that someone could use this unintentionally," said Klein, who is also an associate professor in the WSU College of Nursing.
However, people may also use synthetic cannabinoids "to attempt to avoid positive drug screens performed as a condition of employment, in substance abuse treatment programs, or in the criminal justice system," according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A deadly problem
Marijuana copycats have sent thousands of people to emergency rooms over the past decade. Some have even died, including a 17-year-old boy "who suffered a cardiac arrest after reportedly taking a single 'hit' of K2/Spice," according to the CDC.
There's no way to know which synthetic cannabinoids are actually in the purchased product or what else might be in the solvents used to soak the dried plants, experts say.