Musings From The Edge: Is It Really “Fake” Pot

While the drug czars continue their “wars on drugs”, wars which have been waged since the Nixon years of the early 1970’s they always forget one guiding principle which has been proven over and over most likely since humans began to have wants and needs.

That principle is called supply and demand, or more precisely, demand begets supply.

We are almost to the forty year anniversary of the official beginning of the War on Drugs and everyone, including most law enforcement agencies, acknowledges that it has been an abysmal failure. Now, just to make things even worse along comes the answer for latest wave of demand for people who want to get high in the form of what has been called “Fake Pot.” Included here is an article from the Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News by Stephanie Taylor;

TUSCALOOSA | In the past few months, at least 15 young adults have sought emergency medical treatment at DCH Regional Medical Center with the same symptoms: a racing heart and paranoia.

It sounds like a bad reaction to an illegal drug, but it’s not. It’s a bad reaction to a legal substance that can be purchased in gas stations and tobacco stores across Alabama.

Marketed as “incense,” synthetic marijuana, sometimes called “fake pot,” is a herbal product that has been treated with chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana when smoked. Similar chemicals were made illegal in Alabama last year, but chemists can alter the compounds to remain within the constraints, but perhaps not the spirit, of the law.

Users report that the effects are similar, if not more intense, than the real thing. Some gas station and tobacco store owners in Tuscaloosa who declined to be interviewed on the record about synthetic marijuana said last week that the product is a top seller.

“With pot, there’s a level to where you can keep smoking, but you just don’t get any more high,” said a 34-year-old Tuscaloosa man who has tried it. “With this, there’s no ceiling where that stops.”

DCH spokesman Brad Fisher said that most of the people who have sought treatment are in their early 20s and are usually discharged within two or three hours, according to emergency room doctors.

Often called “Spice” or “K2,” synthetic marijuana is cheaper, easier to obtain and doesn’t show up on drug tests. There’s no age limit to purchase the product, which is often labeled “not for human consumption.” Businesses visited by a Tuscaloosa News reporter last week kept the packages of synthetic marijuana, which comes in a variety of brands, behind the counter. One business owner said he did so after speaking with law enforcement officers.

“We have gone in and talked to store owners because we’re getting a lot of complaints,” said West Alabama Narcotics Task Force commander Capt. Jeff Snyder. “We’ve told them that they need to think about who they’re selling this stuff to. If someone uses it, leaves here and has an accident, I think they could be held in some form or fashion civilly liable.”

Police say that it’s difficult to enforce the ban on the chemicals that were outlawed last year because they have no way to test the product.

“That’s our biggest problem right now — how to tell whether it’s legal or not. There’s no field test for it and it could take months to get results from a lab,” Snyder said. Agents seized some of the product in February 2010 when they found a young man selling it out of his home near the University of Alabama campus. Authorities charged him with operating a business without a license, but not for selling the synthetic marijuana. Agents still have not received results from tests on the substance they took from his house.

“While we were there, 12 kids came by knocking on the door to buy this stuff,” Snyder said. “We asked them why they wanted it, a lot of them said they liked it because it messed them up more than marijuana does. Just because you’re smoking something that’s legal doesn’t mean that it’s not going to harm you.

People need to be a little bit more careful about what they consume.”
Synthetic marijuana is not regulated, and potency varies among different brands. An envelope containing about 3 grams can be purchased for between $20 and $30 in stores and online.

The Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Alabama reports receiving 67 calls from people who have smoked synthetic pot since October 2010, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Three were children between 6 and 12, 15 were teenagers and 22 were in their 20s. Of those, 76 percent were male. At least 56 were treated for toxic exposure in hospital emergency rooms. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 6,700 calls were made to poison control centers nationally in 2010 and in the first seven months of 2011 about synthetic marijuana.

“This is an emerging and dangerous designer drug which has the potential of destroying lives,” Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said in a news release. “We want to explore the best solutions to prevent its misuse.”
Williamson organized a hearing that was held in Montgomery on Sept. 19 and attended by law enforcement from across Alabama. Law enforcement and health officials all support comprehensive legislation that would ban any products that affect cannabis receptors in the brain.

The product they are referring to was actually developed in 1995 at Clemson University by Dr. John Huffman, an organic chemist studying the effects of cannabinoids on the brain. What he developed was a chemical that mimics marijuana in almost every way except that it cannot be detected by tests for THC or cannabinoids. This has made it difficult for law enforcement agencies who have no field tests available for the chemical itself and can only try to focus on the name brands that supposedly have the chemical applied to it. This however, is a hit and miss proposition since distributor can put the chemical on different herbs for incense at will. Some of the brand names are Spider, K2, Kush to name just a few. To date there have been no tests conducted to verify its level of toxicity so it is pretty much use at you own risk. It is believe to be much more potent than marijuana itself.

(Many thanks to Stephanie Taylor, the Tuscaloosa News, And The AP)

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Posted by on September 28, 2011. Filed under Commentary,News,News,Social Issues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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4 Responses to Musings From The Edge: Is It Really “Fake” Pot

  1. Remington64

    September 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I love all of your “musings” Laser and this one is no exception when it comes to learning. I had never heard of these “fake pot” drugs but I remember when I was young they had a breath mint known as “Sen Sen,” and we had convinced ourselves, as high school kids, that it was a secret drug of some type, so we ate them by the gross. The fact is the high we got from thinking we were taking drugs was based on the illusion not the reality. I suspect something similar is happening here, but something sinister is also going on, a dynamic not shared by the now defunct “Sen Sen.”

    • lazersedge

      September 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm

      Thanks a lot Remington but this stuff is for real. You can check it out by going to “High Times”, reportedly the ultimate source on cannabis and all things about getting high. The Narc mentioned in the article and I served together on the police force way back when and he assures me this stuff is for real. I remember reading about it after it was developed and the chemical structure is exactly like THC except for one small component which is why it doesn’t show up on marijuana test.

  2. The Lawyer

    September 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    There has been more than one report around my parts of people freaking out and ending up in the ER from smoking the fake stuff. Funny that the illegal stuff is far less dangerous. Thanks for the info, Lazer.

    • lazersedge

      September 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      You are welcome Lawyer. The interesting thing about the fake stuff is that it is more potent that the real stuff according to “High Times.”