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Guest Editorial: Synthetic Marijuana a Symptom of Wider Problem

Fake pot is endangering lives, all because what users really want to smoke is illegal.

Editor's note: Diane Kearns-Carlstrom is an advocate for the legalization of medical cannabis and a polio survivor. She writes about alternative health, politics and spirituality and is a member of the clergy.

Today, teenagers and adults in our community are smoking a substance they consider to be synthetic marijuana. Typically called Spice, this stuff is a blend of herbs and chemicals that was created to mimic a marijuana high but will not show up during a urine analysis.

Last July, Spice, was made illegal in Florida, or maybe I should say the chemical compounds sprayed on it were made illegal. Florida Gov. Rick Scott also signed into law on March 23 a measure expanding the ban to make additional compounds illegal and already there is a new blend available that is in 'full compliance with the law.'

While its history is murky, we do know that Spice was being used in Europe  during the 1990s, again as a way to skirt anti-marijuana laws.The Spice on today's market is usually made in Asia and sold in small local markets. Organic chemist John W. Huffman of Clemsen University was studying cannabinoid receptors in the brain and wrote about his studies and Pfizer created synthetic compounds designed to mimic cannabis.

From there, some adventurous soul figured out a way to make "fake marijuana." Spice is considerably stronger though, and as I will explain is very little like the herb it is trying to mimic.

Marijuana (cannabis) has a psychoactive ingredient called THC. This is what  makes people feel high when they ingest it, but it also has many other ingredients that have helpful properties: anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, anti-tumor, neuroprotective properties and much more. More than 3,000 studies in the last decade point to the many medical uses this plant has and a PubMed search on medical marijuana yields almost 2,500 hits.

Searching for "cannabis" and other like terms shows more.

Not Blowing Smoke

In 2003, the U.S Government took a patent on some of these ingredients because it recognized the medical potential. Also, several drug companies are working on medicines to help several conditions including MS, chronic pain, psychiatric and others. The same cannot be said of Spice.

Cannabis is known mostly for it's sedative effect (which varies) coupled with "munchies," which is a craving for certain food, lots of it, while Spice can cause aggression, extreme paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, seizures and a host of other unpleasant effects. Those are just some side effects from using Spice.

The most agitated a cannabis user would get while high is some disappointment the Twinkie box is empty, but that can be remedied with a Devil Dog or a slice of pizza. Not long after a nap will be in order.

. Many local convenience stores sold it. A package could be purchased for as little as $1, and often the package is designed to attract children.

Police have had violent encounters with users, and there have been plenty showing up in the emergency room with seizures, racing hearts and hallucinations. Some users become addicted to it. There has even been some deaths attributed to its use.

The first death in the Tampa Bay area linked to Spice was that of Logan Kushner, a Pinellas County teenager, according to the Tampa Bay Times. That same story says that despite the new law, enforcing the ban on Spice chemicals is "tough." After a raid on a suspected synthetic marijuana manufacturer in Tampa April 4, deputies were waiting to see if samples matched up with the new list of banned chemicals.

. He was smoking a synthetic pot, according to an .

Authorities have reportedly said they fear manufacturers could change chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana.

Surely people MUST know this stuff is dangerous! Not true.

The Emperor has No Clothes

Many users are just kids who have constantly been told year after year, how bad drugs are. They are told to "Just Say No" and "Rise above peer pressure."

Well, kids have learned not all bad drugs are created equal. They aren't told the real facts behind abuse, why some people get carried away and others have no issue.

The lack of self-esteem that fuels abuse is not mentioned. Or cultural influences. Or countless other things.

They're just told all drugs are bad and will do terrible things to you, unless prescribed by a doctor.

It's not just the kids either. There are plenty of adults lighting up Spice. Spice won't show up if they get tested for work or for any other reason. Plenty have become ex-pot smokers and just smoke Spice now. I have yet to meet one who prefers it, but they reason they won't lose their job over something they did last Saturday night.

In Our Urgency to Curtail Illegal Drug Use, Did We Create Something Worse?

I have written about some of the medical benefits of cannabis and will write more in days to come. Those aside, it has been established that cannabis does not do the harm that many drugs do.

According to former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders in a Dec. 14, 2002, editorial published in The Globe and Mail:

"...tobacco, through its direct physical effects, kills many thousands of people every year. So does alcohol. And it is easy to fatally overdose on alcohol, just as you can fatally overdose on prescription drugs, or even over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin or acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol)...
I don't believe that anyone has ever died from a marijuana overdose." 

A very recent study showed that smoking cannabis does not do the kind of lung damage that was earlier thought.

Even the military has been having big problems with Spice.

No one has ever overdosed on cannabis (marijuana) and if used alone there is no reason why anyone would end up in the emergency room.

Cannabis does not cause violent behavior or agitation and with moderate use is not addictive.

This can't be said about tobacco and alcohol yet those are sold every day to anyone of legal age. They both are harmful substances that can cause death if abused.

Synthetic marijuana will continue to evolve, to stay one step ahead of the law. People will continue to smoke unknown chemicals that may or may not result in a seizure or bizarre hallucination, endangering their lives and others in turn, all because what they really want to smoke is illegal.

Maybe we should look at why cannabis is illegal and who benefits from that? There are many things you have not been told about. It has medicinal properties which show incredible promise. At this point, I would be interested to see evidence that it does not kill cancer as even the National Cancer Institute has said it has antitumor properties.

There is much, much more to come. It is time the people let the emperor know he has no clothes.

Michael May 02, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Thank you Diane for taking the time to write this article.
Dizzy Lizzy May 02, 2012 at 04:28 PM
This is a great article. Drugs are NOT the reason kids take Drugs. Address the real issues and watch illegal drug use drop. Medical MJ is great for those whom need it, years and years of studies have proven it.
JAMES May 03, 2012 at 03:07 PM
LOL PLEASE!!! How is this a concern in comparison to TOBACCO!!! It kills 100's of 1000's of people yearly Creates cancer for the same amount of people and is driving health insurance through the roof ALL so the GOVERNMENT can BENEFIT with their GREEDY TAX MONEY!!! Wake up America BAN TOBACCO a substance that has over 7000 toxins and that is not of any use to the human body what so ever Not to mention, next time you step out side, look down I bet you see a cigaretter, now multiply that times billions daily What do you think happens to those toxins in those cigarettes on the ground Well when it rains the toxins seep in to our Precious eco system and slowly but surely killing and toxifying everything beneath us Sad to say but as it states, Humans ARE earth's worst VIRUS. Take control and BAN TOBACCO and the GOVERNMENTS GREEDY WALLEt Their just upset because their not in full control of this product and they know they can not make it legal because it will make them look bad. But their not concerned about TOBACCO because so many people are hooked and not complaining. How weird is that. Unfortunately common sense is Not so Common? What up Greedy Government and do some thing right for one in your selfish lives.
Merrill May 03, 2012 at 03:23 PM
@James....if you knew a youngster who lost his life to this sh^t you would reconsider your comments. This is NOT a debate about tobacco, so please take your soapbox elsewhere. Thank you Ms Carlstrom for writing this IMPORTANT article...I still see that crap being sold in gas stations and it breaks my heart.
James Mcriley September 19, 2012 at 04:30 PM
again it is the parents fault these kids use these fake drugs ... this society is not a "childrens" society where everything that might hurt a child should be outlawed...
Dizzy Lizzy September 19, 2012 at 05:01 PM
It's funny how Tyler's comments were deleted. His dumb butt even put his last name. He stated that its his body and if he wants to get high he can. I know Tyler. He is from Pinellas Park and lives under his moms roof, him and his unemployed girlfriend and their kid. His dads name is James, and funny how there is a comment from "James" defending the use of this crap too. They all do drugs and they all are losers. James and Tyler, get a life and an education. You have small kids in the house, not like you've ever cared about that before, but really. This crap makes people go insane and hurt themselves and others. You all are garbage just like the crap you smoke. Read the headlines from SEMINOLE just a few weeks ago about the kid who slashed his moms throat on k2 and tell me its okay to sell and smoke. If your food stamp collecting butts had real jobs you could buy some real MJ. Pinellas Parks finest.

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