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Smokable herbal blends marketed as “legal highs” have become increasingly popular and as easy to buy as cigarettes.

The blends of exotic herbs and other plants have been sprayed or coated with one or more chemicals that, when smoked, produce euphoria. They are commonly labeled as herbal incense to mask their intended purpose. These contain drugs that are dangerous and should be illegal.

“K2” is a brand name for a dried herbal blend that can be smoked. It produces a high similar to that of marijuana but doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical inmarijuana. Instead, K2 contains synthetic chemicals, known as JWH-018 and JWH-073, that mimic THC by acting on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

JWH-018 and JWH-073 are produced in China and unregulated in the United States. Similar products have been produced and marketed under names such as Spice, Genie, Blaze, Red X Dawn and Zohai. Since 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been receiving reports of the abuse of these herbal products.

K2’s key ingredients were invented by Dr. John Huffman at Clemson University in 1995 during medical research on the effects of cannabinoids on the brain. He found no medical benefits — only negative side effects. Unfortunately, marijuana users reproduced the recipe, creating a legal alternative to marijuana.

Although the company manufacturing K2 is unknown, it is legally available for purchase in the U.S. by anyone, including minors.

In late 2008, herbal incense-type products that were being shipped from Europe to the U.S. were found to contain traces of another potent psychoactive chemical known as HU-210. It is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance because it is a derivative of THC with a similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity. HU-210 was also developed for experimental purposes and can be from 100 to 800 times as potent as THC.

In 2009, Germany banned the sale of Spice because tests revealed that it contained JWH-018 and yet another potent chemical, CP-47 497, developed by a drug company in the 1980s for research purposes. It produces effects similar to THC and is three to 28 times more potent.

Spice is banned by some U.S. military commands, where the potential for its abuse has been recognized. Research has linked naturally produced marijuana to health issues, including schizophrenia. With synthetic marijuana being even more potent, it is frightening to consider its potential damage. READ MORE


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