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Synthetic Cannabis — What is it and how does it compare?

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Since the early 2000s, there has been an increase in the use of synthetic cannabis.

Despite being made by scientists in labs, there are claims of the product being natural and even organic or semi-synthetic. However, we don't know too much about synthetic cannabis other than hundreds of types exist. In this article, we're going to attempt to gain a better understanding of what it is, what it does, and where it comes from. Read on to learn more.

What Is Synthetic Cannabis?

Synthetic cannabis refers to products that use synthetic cannabinoids.  

Despite being called synthetic cannabis, it interestingly doesn't share the same chemical structure as its organic counterpart. However, the synthetic cannabinoids function similarly to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound of cannabis.

The pseudo pot may look and feel like the real thing, but it's not the same at all.  Like THC, synthetic cannabinoids bind to the same cell receptors in the brain and body, acting as cannabinoid receptor agonists, resulting in a much more potent psychoactive effect. 

You'll often see synthetic cannabis advertised as organic or semi-synthetic. However, there's nothing organic about lab-created cannabinoids. According to the CDC, synthetic cannabinoids consist of artificial chemicals manufactured and sprayed onto the chopped plant material.

What Are the Side Effects of SYNTHETIC CANNABIS?

At this time, the long-term health effects of faux cannabis are largely unknown. It's challenging to track the long-term effects since the chemical content used in these products is ever-changing. 

While most people feel fine after their first or second use of the product, some hazardous short-term side effects come with continuous use, including:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Agitation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Confusion, disorientation, incoherence
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Kidney failure
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction

The number of cases in which individuals have ended up in intensive care after using synthetic marijuana has doubled over the past few years, attributing the cause to the ever-changing chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Additionally, certain chemical substances used to make synthetic cannabis are federally illegal and classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.

Where Did it Come From?

Scientists created the first synthetic cannabinoids as early as the 1940s without having any knowledge about cannabinoid receptors or the endocannabinoid system (ECS) found in humans. Several scientists (and pharma companies) have since been working off this data to create cannabis-based medicines without actually using cannabis.

Fast-forward to 2004 when John Huffman, a Clemson University chemist, created JWH-18—a synthetic cannabinoid he named after himself. Unlike the other scientists who came before him, Huffman's intent in creating this synthetic cannabinoid was to study the effects of cannabis on the body and how the ECS works and to develop molecules meant to specifically photo-capture areas of the brain.

Around 2008—not too long after his initial creation— synthetic cannabinoids started showing up in incense and being smoked purposefully for its effects, resulting in a spike in related poison control cases. 

Synthetic cannabis is far from harmless, yet it seems to be just about everywhere. Like any product involved in an illicit trade network, the use of synthetic cannabis has only grown and continues to due to the lack of oversight from regulating bodies. Fortunately, as cannabis legalization goes global, the presence of artificial cannabis products is expected to decrease in demand and hopefully start to disappear. 

We are committed to keeping synthetic cannabis out of the market, off the shelves, and far away from our consumers — though it may be something that you should be looking out for; know that we're looking out on your behalf as well.

For the time being, stick to the growers you know and love, and stay out of the lab!

Sources:
1. https://www.verywellmind.com/effects-of-synthetic-marijuana-or-legal-bud-unknown-69523
2. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/how-k2-and-other-synthetic-cannabinoids-got-their-start-in-the-lab-65145
3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/how-a-chemist-unwittingly-helped-spawn-the-synthetic-drug-epidemic/2015/08/09/94454824-3633-11e5-9739-170df8af8eb9_story.html?utm_term=.c5127b988ae2
4. https://www.npr.org/2018/08/16/639371729/what-exactly-is-k2-the-synthetic-cannabinoid
5. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/k2.page
6. https://www.michaelshouse.com/blog/synthetic-marijuana-vs-natural-marijuana-plants-worse/
7. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/chemicals/sc/default.html
8. https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/drug-profiles/synthetic-cannabinoids_en
9. https://drugpolicy.org/are-synthetic-cannabinoids-legal

Published:
August 10, 2021
at
1:06 pm

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