Spice is the generic name for a so-called “synthetic marijuana” or “fake pot.” In most states and in the District of Columbia, it is perfectly legal to buy and sell spice which, when smoked, can produce a marijuana-like high.
The popularity of spice has caught the attention of lawmakers in several states. According to The Washington Post, the governor of Missouri is the latest to sign a state ban, following Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia; soon to be followed by Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, and Louisiana. It is also banned in some European countries.
There is little data or official accounting of its use, although poison control centers record 567 cases of people reporting a bad reaction so far in 2010. Long-term effects are unknown.
Spice comes from the United States as well as other countries, but it is not always clear how the product is made or my whom. According to the Post, packages of spice are labeled that it is to be used as an incense and is not meant for human consumption or to be smoked.
Users report that smoking spice produces an effect similar to marijuana. Spice is generally marketed as an incense known as K2 and is also known as Demon, Genie, or Zohai, and costs as much as $40 per gram.
The New York Times quotes Dr. Scalzo, medical director of the Missouri Poison Control Center, as saying that it is unclear “whether the reaction we’re seeing is just because of dose effect, or if there’s something in there we haven’t found yet.”
Most unsettling for law enforcement is the fact that spice does not show up on drug tests and is not regulated by any agency.
Where did spice originate? CBS News reported earlier this year that Dr. John Huffman, a Clemson University organic chemistry professor, was researching the effects of cannabinoids on the brain when his work resulted in a 1995 paper that contained the method and ingredients used to make the compound. That recipe found its way to marijuana users, who replicated Huffman’s work and began spraying it onto dried flowers, herbs and tobacco. “People who use it are idiots,” said Huffman.
Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo
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