DrugFacts: Spice (Synthetic Marijuana)

“Spice” refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as “safe,” legal alternatives to that drug. Sold under many names, including K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and others—and labeled “not for human consumption”—these products contain dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that are responsible for their psychoactive (mind-altering) effects.

False Advertising

Labels on Spice products often claim that they contain “natural” psycho-active material taken from a variety of plants. Spice products do contain dried plant material, but chemical analyses show that their active ingredients are synthetic (or designer) cannabinoid compounds.

For several years, Spice mixtures have been easy to purchase in head shops and gas stations and via the Internet. Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has designated the five active chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it illegal to sell, buy, or possess them. Manufacturers of Spice products attempt to evade these legal restrictions by substituting different chemicals in their mixtures, while the DEA continues to monitor the situation and evaluate the need for updating the list of banned cannabinoids.

Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana. Easy access and the misperception that Spice products are “natural” and therefore harmless have likely contributed to their popularity. Another selling point is that the chemicals used in Spice are not easily detected in standard drug tests.

A graph showing Past-Year Use of Illicit Drugs by High School Seniors: Marijuana/Hashish 36.4%, Spice 11.4%, MDMA 5.3%, Hallucinogens 5.2%, Cocaine 2.9%. SOURCE: University of Michigan, 2011 Monitoring the Future Study

How Is Spice Abused?

Some Spice products are sold as “incense,” but they more closely resemble potpourri. Like marijuana, Spice is abused mainly by smoking. Sometimes Spice is mixed with marijuana or is prepared as an herbal infusion for drinking.

Image of K2, a popular brand of “Spice” mixture.K2, a popular brand of “Spice” mixture.

How Does Spice Affect the Brain?

Spice users report experiences similar to those produced by marijuana—elevated mood, relaxation, and altered perception—and in some cases the effects are even stronger than those of marijuana. Some users report psychotic effects like extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.

So far, there have been no scientific studies of Spice’s effects on the human brain, but we do know that the cannabinoid compounds found in Spice products act on the same cell receptors as THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. Some of the compounds found in Spice, however, bind more strongly to those receptors, which could lead to a much more powerful and unpredictable effect. Because the chemical composition of many products sold as Spice is unknown, it is likely that some varieties also contain substances that could cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect.

What Are the Other Health Effects of Spice?

Spice abusers who have been taken to Poison Control Centers report symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart (myocardial ischemia), and in a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks. Regular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms.

We still do not know all the ways Spice may affect human health or how toxic it may be, but one public health concern is that there may be harmful heavy metal residues in Spice mixtures. Without further analyses, it is difficult to determine whether this concern is justified.

Authorities raid shops selling ‘K2’

By Benjamin Mueller / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

State and local police and the Washington County district attorney’s drug task force raided nine retail establishments today as part of a nationwide crackdown on businesses suspected of selling a chemical compound with a marijuana-like effect on the brain, Washington County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Lucas said.

According to a press release from the district attorney’s office, undercover detectives and police officers have been buying the compound from Washington County stores for months.

Search warrants were granted and teams that included state, county, and local police searched the establishments this morning, Mr. Lucas said.

Mr. Lucas said officials would not disclose the locations of the searches because the searches are ongoing.

The Pennsylvania State Police have called a press conference for 4 p.m. today to discuss the warrants.

The raids reflected growing concern nationwide over the traffic of the compound, also known by the names “K2” or “Spice.”

The district attorney’s office said the compound can cause respiratory injuries, paranoia, vomiting, and erratic behavior.

“These products are of unknown origin and are imported into this country,” Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone II said in the press release. “They present a serious recognized health risk.”

Mr. Lucas said search warrants targeting sellers of the compound were also being executed in Allegheny County and locations around the country today as part of an effort that incorporated “all levels of law enforcement.”

The district attorney’s office said that officers have been able to trace the drugs sold in Washington County to mainland China.

First synthesized in 1995 by a Clemson University undergraduate student working under a research professor of organic chemistry, the compound was first called JWH-018 — a reference to the professor’s initials.

That professor, John W. Huffman, has been quoted widely saying calling the compound “synthetic marijuana” is a misnomer and makes it sound too benign. The compound does attach to the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain that respond to marijuana, he has said, but is chemically different from THC, the active compound in marijuana, and was not designed for recreational use.

Williamsville man charged in synthetic marijuana bust

In the eyes of prosecutors, Fawzi Al-Arashi was more than a small time drug dealer.

He was a wholesaler, they say, a dealer who bought his synthetic marijuana in California, repackaged it at an Amherst warehouse and resold it across New York State.

Al-Arashi, 34, of Williamsville, was charged Wednesday after a search of his Ridge Lea Road warehouse turned up 30,000 packets of the drug, federal law enforcement officials said.

“In essence, this was a one-stop shop,” said Dale Kasprzyk, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Buffalo, “not just in the retail area, but the wholesale area as well.”

Kasprzyk said the investigation into Al-Arashi started with phone calls from suspicious parents, many of them with young children hospitalized after using the drug.

On top of that, his office received a report from the DEA office in Los Angeles several months ago that a suspected shipment of synthetic marijuana was headed for Buffalo.

According to court papers, the shipment was delivered to Town Tobacco, Al-Arashi’s store at 3407 Delaware Ave. in the Town of Tonawanda.

“We combined all that information together and began to learn that Mr. Al-Arashi was the owner, operator and manager of the operation,” Kasprzyk said at news conference today.

The operation, he said, turned out to be bigger than Town Tobacco or Al-Arashi’s other store, Welcome, Welcome at 140 Main St. in North Tonawanda.

“This is believed to be the biggest synthetic marijuana seizure in Western New York history by a factor of two,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

Investigators said they also seized four of Al-Arashi’s bank accounts, which combined held about $725,000, as well as about $50,000 worth of silver bars and coins found in his Williamsville home.

Al-Arashi is charged with possession and distribution of a controlled substance analogue and made his first court appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder.

Hochul said his office has alerted Schroeder to the possibility that the synthetic marijuana sold by Al-Arashi may have caused harm to some of the people who bought it at his two stores.

If there are people who suffered physical harm because of the drug, Al-Arashi could face a more severe penalty when and if he’s convicted and sentenced, Hochul said.

That sentence could be up to life in prison, although a more lenient sentence would be likely under federal sentencing guidelines.

Hochul said police have received reports of young people being hospitalized after using drugs bought at Al-Arashi’s stores.

They include a woman who claims her son spent time in the psychiatric unit at Erie County Medical Center after using synthetic marijuana bought at Town Tobacco, the U.S. attorney said.

Investigators said Al-Arashi sold the synthetic marijuana in bright colored packages with names such as “Pump It,”  “Tiger Shack” and California Dreams.”

Al-Arashi’s arrest is the result of an investigation by the DEA and New York State Police, as well as Cheektowaga, Amherst, Town of Tonawanda and Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police.

Law enforcement officials said their investigation is ongoing and may include additional arrests in the Rochester area.

Deputies search Hippie Hole, Herbal Connexxion after synthetic drug bust

Seven employees from two Houma businesses are accused of selling synthetic marijuana from their businesses, and deputies began to search the businesses and for the employees Tuesday, a Terrebonne drug task force official said.

Undercover agents have been purchasing synthetic marijuana from the Hippie Hole, 238 N. Hollywood Road, and Herbal Connexxion, 6042 W. Park Ave., for the past six months, said Agent Darryl Stewart, who is an assistant supervisor with the Terrebonne Parish Narcotics Task Force.

Agents said they submitted these purchased items to the State Police crime lab, which revealed they were synthetic marijuana.

“The main source of business for both of these commercial locations was the selling of synthetic materials and paraphernalia associated with its usage,” the task force said in a release.

The state deemed these compounds illegal in August, Stewart said.

The Hippie Hole was selling a brand of synthetic marijuana called Mojo. Herbal Connexxion employees were making its synthetic marijuana themselves, which agents did not realize until the Tuesday search, Stewart said.

Two of the accused Hippie Hole employees are from Des Allemands and one is from Montegut; they were arrested Tuesday, Stewart said. An Herbal Connexxion employee from Houma was also arrested Tuesday, and police are still searching for three employees from that store who are from Marrero.

Deputies said they expect more people to be accused in the future as the investigation continues.

From the Hippie Hole: John and Amanda Matranga, 147 Dixie Drive, Des Allemands, and Jamie Jones, 120 S. Louisiana Drive, Montegut, are each accused of three counts of distributing synthetic compounds, three counts of possession with intent to distribute synthetic compounds, three counts of mingling harmful substances. and three counts of possessing drug paraphernalia.

From Herbal Connexxion: Jeremy Venable, 31, 552 Avenue A, Apartment B, Marrero; Jeffry Venable, 31, 511 Avenue A, Apartment B, Marrero; and Steven Gindy, 32, 2621 Delta Pointe Drive, Marrero, are each accused of five counts of each of the same charges.

The Venables are twins, Stewart said.

Herbal Connexxion employee Angela Maury, 29, 204 Country Boy Court, Houma, is only accused of one count each of the same charges.

Agents are still involved in the investigation, so the outcome of the searches is not yet available, the task force said. Further details on those findings will be released as they develop.

Gang of drug peddlers in police net

The Dubai Police have arrested a four-member gang, which allegedly promoted restricted and banned drugs, tramadol and spice.


Major-General Abdul Jalil Mahdi, Director of the General department of Anti-Narcotics of the Dubai Police, said that the officials from the department managed to arrest the gang composed of two Asians and 2 AGCC nationals.

He said the gang intensified its activities in Ramadan, as they thought the police will not notice it during the holy month.

The police officer who headed the anti-drug team raided the car of one of the Asian suspects, which was parked near a supermarket in Hamdan area after receiving a tip-off that the suspects were in possession of a huge quantity of drugs.

Both the suspects, A.A. and A.M. were arrested and a large quantity of tramadol pills and money were recovered from the car. It was also confirmed through blood check that the first suspect consumed hashish and tramadol.

He confessed to the police that the drug was given to him by an AGCC national, identified as S.M.A., who asked him to promote it on commission basis.

The police set a trap and arrested S.M.A. along with the fourth suspect, 34-year-old H.M.H., who has been waiting in the car.

The police found that he had a criminal record and he masterminded the gang’s operations.

During a raid at the flat of S.M.A. in Al Warqa, large quantities of spice drug (a non-medical drug similar to hashish) and tramadol were recovered.

All the suspects were referred to the Dubai Public Prosecution, charged with possession of drug and the first suspect was additionally charged with consumption of drug. Abdul Jalil Mahdi praised the efforts of anti-narcotic team and urged the public to inform police if they have information on drug-related 

The UAE has banned the use of spice drugs and it had been included in the banned drug list under as per a Cabinet decree issued in last May.

The UAE has become the first country in the region to detect the harmful effect of the drug and to include it in the banned list.

Large Spice Drug Bust In Wilmington

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)– The Wilmington Police Department recently made its biggest “spice” bust in its history. Investigators say they found over 1,400 packages of the substance at the Northern Lights Smoke Shop off Market Street.

“I was very surprised, I didn’t even know it was that serious of a thing,” said Chris Brown, a Northern Lights Smoke Shop customer. “I didn’t know it was illegal like that. I had no idea that they could get in trouble for it.”

Their open light may not be on but the Northern Lights Smoke Shop was still serving customers on Sunday.

Thursday the store was busted for the synthetic substance known as “spice”.

Store workers did not want to talk about the incident but some shoppers didn’t mind sharing their thoughts on the drug.

“I smoked it a while back and it was kind of a weird feeling,” said Brown. “It lasted about an hour and it was totally different than anything I’ve ever smoked before and I didn’t really like it too much.”

Wilmington Police say the now illegal substance is a problem in the community.

It’s supposed to be similar to scented potpourri, but when you smoke it “spice” mimics the effects of marijuana.

In the recent bust investigators seized $30,000 worth of the substance and about $2,000 in currency.

Despite the bust at the Northern Lights Smoke Shop the shop has not been shut down and there have been no arrests at this time.

The Wilmington Police Narcotics Enforcement Unit and NCIS are continuing to investigate.

A few people who work at the shop did not want to talk to WWAY on camera but did say the store plans to continue its business as normal.

Spice bust lands one in jail

DEKALB Co. Ala. (WAAY) – Dekalb and Jackson County Drug Task Forces Teamed up Monday night to execute a drug warrant for a wanted man believed to be in Rainsville.

Agents found 39-year-old Hubert Craig Bodiford at a home on County Road, along with several ounces of marijuana and spice. Sheriff Jimmy Harris says there had been an ongoing case against Bodiford and praised the agencies for working side by side “When law enforcers work together, we are able to accomplish twice as much,” he said.

Bodiford was charged with Possession of Marijuana and Spice.

Spice Drug Bust

Harris asks anyone with information that may aid the Deputies in drug investigations to call the Sheriff’s Office at (256) 845-3801.

Spice bust nets three drug charges for Burley business owner

One Stop Shop

The Voice photo by C. Colt Crane

It was here at the One Stop Shop on East Main that local law enforcement found “Pep Spice” and paraphernalia that netted Mahest “Mike” Shaw three drug charges.

            BURLEY – A May drug bust has netted a Burley man three drug related charges and appears to have thwarted the local “spice” sales, according to authorities.

A warrant was issued May 3, 2012, to the One Stop Shop at the Lamplighter Motel located at 304 E Main Street and was a result of a year-long investigation by the Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force and Cassia County Sheriff’s office into allegations of the possession and distribution of controlled substances known as “Pep Spice”.

The drug is an organic material laced with a Schedule I non-narcotic synthetic drug similar to THC, the chemical found in marijuana. Pep Spice is a laboratory manufactured substance that was being sold as incense in an effort to fly under the radar of food and drug laws.

The Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force were tipped off to the drug’s distribution by reports of people falling ill and being hospitalized as a result of smoking the synthetic drug. Officials say that Pep Spice can be as dangerous and as addictive as meth and heroin. Reports of users being rushed to the emergency room is part of what initially tipped off local law enforcement agencies.

Thousands of dollars’ worth of drug paraphernalia and Pep Spice were seized by Cassia Deputies and the Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force.

Cassia County Prosecutor Alfred E. Barrus said that the owner of the One Stop Shop, Mahesh “Mike” Shaw has been charged with three counts of drug related crimes.

“Mr. Shaw has been charged with one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to deliver,” said Barrus.

The drug bust has been a boon to local law enforcement according to Detective Dan Renz, Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force Supervisor.

“We’ve had no reports on anything else going on,” said Renz.

“There is no further indication of related activity.”

Home explosion from apparent “Spice” lab

Land O’ Lakes, Florida– Pasco Sheriff’s Vice and Narcotics detectives are investigating what appears to be a homemade “Spice”, or synthetic marijuana, lab explosion in Land O’ Lakes.

Officials report they received a call that an explosion occurred in the garage of a home on Breezy Oak Court. The call came in at 6:50 p.m., and originally reported a “water heater explosion.

However, reports indicate that further investigation revealed the homemade operation.

One man was burned in the fire and was transported to a local hospital. His injuries, according to deputies, include burns to his back and arm.

At this time, deputies say no one is under arrest, and the identity of the injured will remain confidential.

They say it is too soon to tell if the chemicals in the spice are illegal, and that further testing in a lab will determine if the operation was, in fact, using banned chemicals.

Tampa, Florida — DEA agents hauled away several bags of synthetic marijuana, or “spice”, during a raid at a warehouse near Tampa International Airport Wednesday morning.

Agents wore masks to help them breathe as they worked to remove the illegal drug among the chemical fumes which smells like “spice”. Fans were also brought in to air out the building on Benjamin Road.

10 News has been told similar raids are taking place at other locations in Hillsborough County as part of a nationwide crackdown.

Agents say more information will be released Thursday about the raids, but that these were planned before Tuesday night’s spice lab fire in Pasco.