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Synthetic Cannabinoids: Uses and Dangers

13 November 2020
Why you should stick to cannabis buds and avoid synthetic cannabis!
13 November 2020
6 min read
Synthetic Cannabinoids: Uses and Dangers

Read more
  • 1. The history of fake cannabinoids
  • 2. What are synthetic cannabinoids?
  • 3. How to smoke it?
  • 4. What are the effects?
  • 5. Are they addictive?
  • 6. Can you overdose on fake weed?
  • 7. How to recognize fake weed
  • 8. Is fake weed legal?
  • 9. Facts you need to know about fake weed
  • 10. In conclusion

Synthetic cannabinoids are mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on plant material, but unlike cannabis, they're not safe and are much more powerful.

Even though they’re called cannabinoids and can be smoked, they’re not really cannabinoids and can have unpredictable and life-threatening effects.

1. The History Of Fake Cannabinoids

Synthetic weed (aka Spice) made its first appearance in Europe around 2004 and in the US around 2008, this fake weed was made with chemicals created decades ago for experimental purposes such as CP 47,497 created by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, HU-210 developed in 1988 in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and JWH-018 created in 1995 in the Clemson University of South Carolina4.

These drugs weren't seen as a threat because people didn't know its uses yet until the US Drug Enforcement Administration discovered what they were being used for and banned these substances in 2012.


Synthetic cannabinoids: history

The chemicals used in spice were created for experimental purposes before being used to get high.

The underground producers then developed new drugs to substitute the ones that were banned and came up with substances that mimicked the effects of cannabis but were up to 100 times stronger, these substances were then banned but people kept making similar substances, that's why it's so hard to ban them effectively, because "scientists" keep changing the compounds used to manufacture this drug.

Nowadays there are more than 100 different types of synthetic weed that keep constantly changing so the law cannot keep up, and also, due to the constant change, you never know exactly what you are consuming.


2. What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids? 

This drug consists of manmade chemicals with mind-altering properties which can be sprayed on dried plant material so they can be smoked in a joint or bong, or sold as liquid “essences” to be smoked in vaporizers.

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because of their similarity to the chemicals found in cannabis but this title is misleading because they are usually sold as a safe alternative to cannabis (usually sold as synthetic cannabis or “fake weed”) but in reality, the effects are much stronger so they are not safe and can affect your brain in unpredictable ways, sometimes being life-threatening.


Main compounds found in spice

CP 47,497
JWH-018 / JWH-073 / JWH-398 / JWH-250


Fake weed (aka “spice” aka “K2”) are part of a group of drugs called New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) which consists of unregulated mind-altering substances designed to produce the same effects as illegal drugs but without being illegal.

These drugs have been around for years but, unfortunately, due to the popularity of cannabis nowadays, they have re-entered the market recently.

3. How To Smoke It? 

Have in mind that we DO NOT recommend consuming this drug, this article was written to inform you of the dangers of smoking “spice”.


Synthetic cannabinoids: how to smoke

Spice can be smoked in the same ways you would smoke cannabis.

K2 can be smoked in several ways just like cannabis, the most common being:

  • Mixed with tobacco, rolled into a spliff or joint.
  • Smoked using a pipe or a bong.
  • Consumed in liquid form in a vaporizer or electronic cigarette.
  • Consumed with food or made into a drink.

4. What Are The Effects?

Because these compounds were designed to be similar to cannabis, the effects are similar to the effects of consuming cannabis, you can have a good or a bad trip. Users often feel happy, relaxed, hungry, or creative but the effects are not always pleasant.

Spice has a more powerful effect because it reacts more strongly with the cannabis receptors in our body so it’s easier to consume too much and have a bad experience.


Synthetic cannabinoids: effects

Even though you can have a good trip, there are several harmful effects associated with spice.

This drug may also have unknown effects due to them being relatively new, there have been reports of deaths associated with the use of fake weed but the known harmful effects up to this day are considered to be the following:

  • Confusion, dizziness, and tiredness
  • Feeling aggressive and agitated
  • Mood swings, anxiety, and paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Chest pains
  • Increased heart rate that can escalate into a heart attack

There are several other risks that can trigger mental health problems such as psychotic episodes that can last weeks or cause a relapse.


5. Are They Addictive?

Many of these chemicals have a chemical structure similar to serotonin which is a natural chemical found in our body, it’s been suggested by scientific researches that this could overstimulate your brain and end up being addictive.


Synthetic cannabinoids: addiction

Depending on how much spice you smoke you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Becoming addicted depends on a lot of things such as how long you’ve been using it and how much you use, if you’re a regular user, you could find it really hard to stop using it and you can experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, mood changes, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and shaking, among others.

6. Can You Overdose On Fake Weed?

Such as when using synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, for example, you can overdose with spice if you use too much of it, the harmful symptoms include seizures, toxic reactions, kidney damage, and in some cases, death.


7. How To Recognize Fake Weed

In the US, synthetic cannabinoid products are sold as herbal blends labeled as legal bud, herbal smoke, marijuana alternatives, fake weed, or herbal buds, this makes it hard to identify them but a good way to recognize it is by the appearance.


Synthetic cannabinoids: recognize

Fake weed is usually sold as a herbal blend in colorful packages.

Synthetic weed contains a mix of dried herbs in various colors including green, brown, yellow, and red, and are sold in small colorful packages with a disclaimer that reads “not for human consumption”.

8. Is Fake Weed Legal?

Although K2 have been legal before 2016, this drug was covered by the 2016 US Psychoactive Substances Act, which means that it’s illegal to sell, produce, import, or give away but there’s no penalty for possession.

9. Facts You Need To Know About Fake Weed

Fact 1. Synthetic weed is not a regular weed

Unlike cannabis which is plant-based, fake weed refers to a number of man-made chemicals that come in liquid form or sprayed on herbs.

Fact 2. Spice is not “safe, “natural” or “legal”

Synthetic weed is wrongly sold as safe, natural, and legal alternatives to cannabis, even though they were legal when they were first reported in the year 2000, they have been prohibited.

Fact 3. Synthetic cannabinoids are much stronger and toxic than cannabis

Synthetic cannabinoids are much more potent than cannabis and they’re also toxic and poisonous, and in some cases resulting in death due to the specific combination of chemicals being unknown.


Synthetic cannabinoids: facts

K2 is not safe, legal, or natural.

Fact 4. This drug can result in harmful physical and mental effects

Despite some users having pleasant effects, a lot of users have reported seizures, convulsions, and more serious problems such as kidney damage and violent behavior.

Fact 5. Synthetic and natural cannabinoids are not the same

Despite both types of cannabinoids being found in cannabis plants and have similar effects, there are some differences that make fake weed stronger and sometimes have unpredictable effects.

Fact 6. Fake bud is not always the same

Due to being unknown, synthetic weed is always changing, this is not only to make it stronger but also so producers can avoid the laws that make this drug illegal, this way spice can continue to be sold “legally”, often found in regular places such as gas stations, smoke shops or on the internet.  

10. In Conclusion

Fake weed is not a good alternative to cannabis, even though it may have similar effects, synthetic cannabinoids are dangerous to your health and unlike cannabis, can end up resulting in harmful health conditions.

If you have a tip to help fellow growers keep away from this drug, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below!



This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.



  1. Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice). - National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  2. Synthetic cannabinoids: What are they? What are their effects? - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. How harmful is K2/Spice (synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids)?  - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Synthetic Marijuana: A Short History. - Foundation For A Drug-Free World.