Synthetic marijuana

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Date: May 2012
From: The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin(Vol. 81, Issue 5)
Publisher: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,274 words
Lexile Measure: 1660L

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In Florida, a 14-year-old boy was admitted to the emergency room after experiencing seizures and difficulty breathing. He and his brother had smoked herbal incense, referred to by local police as Mr. Nice Guy.' In another case, a 17-year-old boy in western Texas was hospitalized in May 2010 after smoking synthetic marijuana before school. After feeling sick on the bus ride to the campus, his symptoms became progressively worse. He was admitted to the hospital, treated, and released within the same day. (2.) Statistics indicated that emergency room visits across the country due to the use of synthetic marijuana have risen from 13 in 2009 to approximately 560 in the first half of 2010. (3.)

In March 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) temporarily placed five synthetic chemicals--JWH-018; JWH-073, JWH-200; CP-47, 497; and cannabicy-clohexanol--into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). (4.) These substances produce druglike effects that resemble those resulting from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabanoid and the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but have distinct chemical structures? Individuals use them to coat herbal blends and then sell these products under such names as K2, Spice, Mr. Nice Guy, Genie, and others.' Under the DEA's ruling, punishments for the possession or sale of these chemicals mirror those for marijuana. Law enforcement agencies should gain an understanding of synthetic marijuana, its distribution, potential harmful effects, and concerns for officers.

Definition

In 1995, a Clemson University professor used a synthetic compound to conduct research identifying the effects on the brain from cannabinoids. Following the publication of a paper detailing the experiment, the description of the method and ingredients became popular among persons searching for a marijuana-like high. People began spraying the synthetic chemical compound described in the article on dry herbs and then smoking them as they would regular marijuana.?

The main chemical used to produce synthetic marijuana is JWH-018 (the initials are those of the professor conducting the Clemson University experiment), similar to THC.(8.) The moniker "imitation marijuana" actually may be a misnomer as no psychopharmacological differences exist between this substance and marijuana. Both chemicals are considered cannabinoids, which attach themselves to the cannabinoid, or CB, receptors in the brain. However, the synthetic compounds and THC differ in levels of potency."

While significantly different, marijuana and the synthetics share many similarities, including their appearance, method of consumption, euphoriclike high experienced after inhaling or ingesting, negative side effects, and the concerns of law enforcement officials regarding the dangers associated with all such substances. The manufacturing of these products proves fairly simple: Individuals produce the synthetic chemicals separately and then spray them onto dry herbs and plants. Their simplistic creation and low cost (S20 to S50 for 3 grams) make synthetic forms of marijuana attractive to users.(10.)

Smoke shops and convenience stores across the nation sell synthetic marijuana labeled as incense. Because local dealers, not laboratories, manufacture the products, health officials have concerns. The risk of contamination--and, therefore, negative side effects-- increases. (11.) In addition to the United States, Britain, Germany,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A289361606