If you have heard of AK-47, K2, Spice, Scoobie Snacks, Mr. Nice Guy and 24-Karat Dream, you have heard of strains of what is considered synthetic cannabis, or fake weed.
While some cannabis users may think synthetic weed is a great alternative to the real thing in states in which cannabis is not yet legal, that is not the case.
Most synthetic weed products are sold as dried plant, also sprayed with chemicals ranging from acetone to embalming fluid, or other substances mixed with various other psychoactive drugs. Some are made in a powdered form, so that they can be sprayed onto or added to another product looking like the real thing. Not surprisingly, there is a huge risk of unintentional consumption associated with synthetic weed.
However, the lure of intentional consumption goes beyond having a convenient alternative in a non-legal state. Synthetic weed does not show up on drug screens. This presents an ongoing problem, fatal substances such as rat poison have shown up in synthetic weed.
The overall allure of the fake products, however, is that they act in the same way that the real thing does. Fake weed works on the same cannabinoid receptors that THC does, but synthetic weed but can be up to 100 times more potent. When you consider that the side effects of synthetic weed include hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, and violent behavior, that is cause for concern.
Additionally, other physical symptoms associated with consuming fake weed include severe nausea and vomiting, chest pain and heart attack, kidney failure, and death.
Since states that allow recreational cannabis are also associated with lower fake weed consumption, activists point to this as an argument for making cannabis legal everywhere, especially federally. The more safe options that are available, the lower the chances are of physical harm.
Sources: Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CDC, CNN