Synthetic Marijuana is ‘Dangerous Stuff’

In the wake of raids on a dozen Washington County businesses selling the drug, Dr. Neil Capretto of Gateway Rehabilitation said the problem is ‘everywhere.’


Dr. Neil Capretto said one patient who came intoGateway Rehabilitation called the synthetic pot he was smoking “like marijuana on steroids.”

In the wake of a raid of a dozen Washington County businesses that were selling the synthetic marijuana, often packaged as incense and labeled “not fit for human consumption,” Capretto, Gateway’s medical director, said the use of such “designer drugs” is on the rise.

“It’s everywhere,” the doctor said. “It’s through most of the country now.”

And it’s getting worse, he said. Right now, he said there are 140 different versions of synthetic marijuana, and each has its own “tweaked” version of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in the drug.

The concept is based of research done in the 1990s by a scientist who was working to create a synthetic form of the drug for legitimate reasons, trying to mimic the relaxation and sedation effects of marijuana.

But Capretto said the doctor later abandoned the research because the synthetic version was similar “but much, much more potent.”

How much more?

“It was two to 10 times more potent,” Capretto said, adding that the potency causes much more extreme effects, including hallucinations and loss of motor-coordination skills.

Generally smoked, the products sold and seized at local shops come mostly from China, where makers spray the drug on plant material, and market it as incense or potpourri.

“It’s like, ‘Wink, wink,” but everyone knows,” Capretto said. “This is some very potent, dangerous stuff.”

And while the drugs have made its way into many circles, the doctor said it’s use it most common in two groups.

The first group includes people between the ages of 18 and 30.

The other group? People in the legal system or a work environment that requires regular drug testing.

Capretto said that while technology is advancing, it’s difficult to screen for the drug because its make-up is slightly different from traditional THC.


“So you pass your drug test,” Capretto said.

He asked parents and members of the community to be vigilant—and not assume that the name “synthetic marijuana” or the fact it can be found in convenience stores and gas stations are signs it is safe to consume.

And he said he thinks the stores, which he said have made as much as $100,000 a year selling the synthetic marijuana also known also as K2 or K3, should be held accountable.

“We have to hold their feet to the fire,” Capretto said.

Scooby Snax Herbal Incense Review

When the Fun Loving Criminals were “Running around robbing banks all wacked off of Scooby Snacks”, I do not think they were thinking of this happy little blend from! Scooby Snax rather should be conjuring up images of food piled high, sharing it with your best bud while trying to avoid as much work as possible! I once tried this product that must have been a bad batch because it ended up leaving an aftertaste of fish behind that was foul. In the interest of science however, I am always willing to try something again, with the optimism that I will be proven wrong. WHEW! I am glad I did… the pre-burnt aroma is fruity, fun- matches the colorful tie-dyed package with Scooby on the front. The herbal blend is fluffy and light, and compacts well into the burner. The blend itself has a few sticks in it, but nothing that would ruin your day.
When lit, the herbal blend gives off copious amounts of thick smoke that is very pleasant and long-lasting. Not harsh at all, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how long each light lasts you- upwards of 20 minutes per light. Beginner to expert incense burners will not be disappointed in this one! There’s no mystery as to why Scooby has that look on his face- this is a fun herbal blend that goes well with music, friends, or just enjoying the little things in life around you.  Any  incense enthusiast could not go wrong adding this to their collection of daily blends. Since the herbal blend they are using seems so fluffy and light, it is an extremely versatile blend for all types of incense burners!

Fake Pot Is A Real Problem For Regulators

A screengrab from the Mr. Nice Guy site shows the company's products, including Relaxinol, which was blamed for contributing to an accidental death.

EnlargeNPRA screengrab from the Mr. Nice Guy site shows the company’s products, including Relaxinol, which was blamed for contributing to an accidental death.

This week, President Obama signed a law banning synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs. Dozens of states and local governments have already tried to outlaw fake marijuana, which has been blamed for hundreds of emergency room visits and a handful of fatalities.

But the bans have proved largely ineffective, and there are fears that the federal law won’t be any different.

Synthetic marijuana looks a bit like dried grass clippings. It’s readily available on the Internet and in convenience stores and smoke shops, where it’s sold as herbal incense or potpourri.

A Stand-In For Marijuana

At roughly $20 a gram, it’s unlikely that many buyers are using synthetic marijuana to freshen up the powder room. Most are smoking it as a substitute for real marijuana.

That’s what Aaron Stinson was doing last September.

“This is an actual packet that I found in his belongings, in his bedroom,” says his mother, Deirdre Canaday, as she holds up a small, shiny package.

The product is called Relaxinol — which, the label promises, can relieve “unwanted state of mind.” Canaday found the packet in Stinson’s apartment last year, shortly after he died in his sleep at a friend’s house in upstate New York.

“He had smoked a spice potpourri product called Mr. Nice Guy Relaxinol,” Canaday says. “And he went to sleep. And in the morning, about 9:30 a.m., his two friends woke up. But Aaron — they found him totally unresponsive, not breathing, no pulse.”

Canaday admits her son had a history of using drugs, specifically marijuana. But she says Stinson, who was 26, was getting his act together. He had a good job as a home health care aide. Canaday thinks Stinson was using synthetic marijuana that night for the same reason many people do: He was worried about passing a drug test for his job, and he knew that synthetic marijuana was not likely to show up.

“I think that my son, the only thing he did wrong was to be naive,” Canaday says, “to believe this stuff that’s packaged was all natural and safe, and a good alternative to something that was illegal — because it’s not.”

The pathologist determined the cause of Stinson’s death to be “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of ethanol (from alcohol consumption) and Relaxinol.” No charges were ever filed; the company that makes Relaxinol did not respond to requests for an interview.

Drugs Bring Side Effects And Uncertainty

There are no clinical studies about the health effects of synthetic marijuana. But anecdotally, health care providers report a long list of nasty side effects, from agitation and paranoia to intense hallucinations and psychosis.

Christine Stork, the clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Control Center, says that she’s seen a steady stream of synthetic marijuana users turn up in emergency rooms over the past few years.

Deirdre Canaday says that the people who sell synthetic marijuana are "worse than the drug dealers on the street."

EnlargeJoel Rose/NPRDeirdre Canaday says that the people who sell synthetic marijuana are “worse than the drug dealers on the street.”

“They’re expecting a marijuana experience and pretty soon, they realize they’re not getting their usual experience,” she says. “They can be quite agitated. They can be quite paranoid. They require drugs to sedate them and may have seizures, which are pretty severe.”

Stork says synthetic marijuana can be 20 times as potent as real marijuana. But it’s hard to predict the strength of any particular brand or packet — in part because it’s remarkably easy for anyone to make and package synthetic marijuana without any oversight or regulation.

Video Tutorials In Drug Making

In a video posted on YouTube, an unidentified man shows how it’s done, using damiana, a Mexican shrub, as the base. All you need is some legal plant material and some chemical powders that can be easily ordered from overseas labs.

“Anybody with a working knowledge of chemistry, or that can follow a simple set of directions, can obtain and mix these substances and create these compounds,” says James Burns, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in upstate New York.

Most states have already moved to ban some synthetic cannabinoids — the chemical compounds that are the key ingredient in synthetic marijuana. But Burns says it’s not that simple.

“You have people that are very good with chemistry, that continue to manipulate the molecular structure of these substances,” he says. “So that they are creating analogues, or substances that are similar to those that have been banned.”

The result is a big game of cat and mouse. The government outlaws a certain compound or family of compounds. But then producers tweak the chemical formula of their products to skirt the law.

A $5 Billion Market

Despite a slew of federal, state and local bans, sales in the synthetic drug industry seem to be growing — to roughly $5 billion a year, according to Rick Broider, president of the North American Herbal Incense Trade Association.

“You can’t stop the market,” he says. “You know, there’s no piece of legislation that’s going to stop market demand.”

Broider runs a company called Liberty Herbal Incense in New Hampshire, which he says recently changed its chemical formulas to keep its products legal. He insists his industry’s products are not for human consumption, though he concedes that some people may be misusing the product by smoking it.

“We’re aware that there are a number of people who do choose to misuse our products for their euphoric effect. We do not support that at all,” Broider says. “If you’re going to misuse a product, you’re basically incurring a large risk to yourself. But our question is, don’t Americans have the right to assume their own personal risk?”

Would Broider allow his children to smoke herbal incense or synthetic marijuana products?

“You know, if my children are under 18 years old, I would not allow them to do anything that I wouldn’t deem appropriate to be doing under 18 years old,” he says. “When they’re over 18 years old, I would see it no differently than alcohol or tobacco, which are two products that have been proven to be addictive and have have proven to have negative health consequences.”

That argument doesn’t convince Canaday, who blames her son’s death on a different brand of synthetic marijuana.

“I would say they’re cowards,” she says of manufacturers like Broider. “I would say they’re absolute cowards. And worse than the drug dealers on the street that sell illicit drugs.”

A New Federal Law

So far, law enforcement officials have been mostly stymied in their efforts to treat synthetic drugs makers like conventional drug dealers. This week, President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012. It will mean tougher criminal penalties for selling some first-generation synthetic cannabinoids and many newer ones as well.

The new law should help, says Burns of the DEA.

“If we can make the bad guys react to what we’re doing instead of us reacting to what the bad guys are doing, then I think that’ll help us get a better handle on this issue,” he says.

But others worry that the new federal law is already obsolete.

“It’ll help in some regards, that these things need to be listed and controlled. And there’ll be no more discussion about, ‘I didn’t know,’ ” says Anthony Tambasco, a forensic scientist in Mansfield, Ohio. “But you’ll have, again, new compounds coming through the door that we’ll have to deal with.

As soon as Ohio outlawed a number of synthetic cannabinoids last year, Tambasco says, he started to see new compounds in local stores. And he expects drug makers will react just as quickly to the new federal ban.

“They already are. They’re already out in front of it. They’re already on their next batch,” he says.

When we spoke last week, Tambaso said there were already three synthetic cannabinoid samples he’d never seen before waiting for him in the lab.

BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR & WIFE Arrested for Synthetic Weed

Billy the Exterminator and wife mug shot
Billy Bretherton from A&E’s reality show “Billy the Exterminator” has been arrested for synthetic marijuana possession along with his wife Mary

Law enforcement tells, police were dispatched to the Courtyard Marriott in Benton, Louisiana on April 28th in reference to a 911 hang-up call. When cops arrived at the Brethertonshotel room, we’re told they discovered what they suspected was synthetic marijuana and some drug-smoking device.

FYI — synthetic marijuana refers to a wide-range of drugs that mimic the effects of marijuana … some are legal, some aren’t.

Police confiscated the substance for testing — and last week, they say it came back positive as synthetic marijuana. Arrest warrants were subsequently issued for Billy and Mary for drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Billy and Mary were contacted by police about the warrants and the two turned themselves in June 1st. They bonded out the same day.

So far, no court date’s been set. Calls to the Brethertons were not returned.

Alleged user, sellers of man-made pot charged in crash

A Pottstown man who police said was “flying” on K2, or synthetic pot, and two others who supplied it from behind the counter of a local convenience store were charged Monday in connection with a May 21 car crash that killed two people.

In the first charges to be lodged in Montgomery County under the state’s recent ban on synthetic drugs, police announced the filing of two counts of vehicular homicide against Roger Malloy, 27, of the 300 block of N. York Street.

Malloy told police he had just smoked K2 on May 21 when the Lincoln Continental he was driving went out of control on rain-slick pavement, killing Pottstown residents James Crawford, 28, and Rachel Witt, 15, who were in the car.

A third passenger, Kendall Harper, 16, was severely injured in the crash on State Street in the northwestern Montgomery County borough, police said.

Police also announced the arrest of Rafie Ali, 34, of the 400 block of E. High Street, and Mohamed Himed, 25, of the Bronx, N.Y.

Ali, authorities allege, was proprietor of the store where Malloy purchased the K2. Himed was a clerk.

The pair were charged with corrupt organizations, delivering a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to court papers, the two peddled the illegal substance for $5 a bag or vial from behind the counter of the Achi store, a convenience shop at 315 E. High Street.

The pair were not charged with vehicular homicide because the anti-synthetic drug legislation passed Aug. 22, 2011, has no provision for that.

“We can’t file homicide charges against them, but make no mistake, they do have blood on their hands,” said District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman during a briefing in Norristown.

The two men were arraigned late Monday before District Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr., who ordered each held on $1 million bail in the Montgomery County prison. Malloy was awaiting arraignment before Kropp late Monday.

Ferman portrayed the case as a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when young people use synthetic marijuana.

Also known as “spice,” “K2” and fake weed, it is a manmade chemical compound that can be sprayed on a natural herb. When smoked, it delivers a high similar to THC, the prime ingredient in marijuana.

“K2 might look like something from a candy store, but it can kill,” Ferman said. She said young people use it because they believe it is cheap, relative to marijuana, and because they think “it’s not dangerous.”

“It can get you into as much trouble as other illegal drugs,” she warned.

On June 15, 2011, a 16-year-old Upper Moreland boy who had just smoked K2 jumped off the third story of a parking garage in Abington Township and was severely injured.

Police said the boy was sitting in a car with three friends about 8 p.m. when “he began to act oddly and may have been hallucinating.”

“He suddenly climbed out of the car. . .and ran full speed and leaped off of the deck,” detectives said. No charges were filed in connection with the incident because the synthetic drug ban had yet to become law.

In the Pottstown case, the K2 “caused [Malloy’s] heart to beat faster, blurred his vision, and caused a sense of panic,” according to court papers.

The car skidded 443 feet before coming to rest in an alley. Malloy pulled his friends from the back seat of the car and then vanished, police said. Malloy was apprehended May 22 while trying to escape authorities on a bicycle.


Broward may outlaw bath salts, fake pot, aggressive panhandling

Broward County may join the legal crusades against trendy synthetic drugs and aggressive panhandlers.

At their last meeting before a two-month summer recess, Broward commissioners Tuesday asked their attorney to draft laws on both hot issues, to be voted on later this year.

The laws, if passed, would apply countywide except in cities that have conflicting rules on the books, the county attorney’s office said.

  • Related
  • Sunrise expected to ban designer drug sold as 'bath salts'

Since the Miami “zombie” attack in which Rudy Eugene attacked a homeless man, eating part of his face, the use of bath salts as a mind-altering drug has drawn wide public attention. Police are looking into whether Eugene, whom they shot and killed, was under the influence of bath salts before the attack.

Disturbing accounts of people smoking herbal incense as a synthetic version of marijuana also are prompting action to outlaw sales of that substance.

Broward commissioners appeared less enthusiastic, though, over a proposal to outlaw aggressive panhandling, suggested by Commissioner Chip LaMarca. The city of Fort Lauderdale passed an anti-begging law recently, and LaMarca said he’d like to see Broward follow suit.

Visitors shouldn’t be verbally accosted by panhandlers, he said.

But his colleagues voiced numerous concerns, including Mayor John Rodstrom’s repeated worries that the county’s jails would fill to overflowing if the law is passed.

Sheriff Al Lamberti said last week that the jails are at 92 percent capacity, and he’d have to reopen the county stockade if the population passes its maximum.

Commissioner Sue Gunzburger said she’s never had a problem once she says no to people selling items from the street corners and medians.

“I realize it’s a problem for some,” she said, “but we also have to protect their First Amendment rights.”

Commissioners also on Tuesday put some bite into several new laws passed recently, enacting fines of $250 per violation for the first offense, and $500 for subsequent violations.

Here are the laws the fines apply to: a new tow truck ordinance, which attempts to infuse more customer friendliness into operations; a law banning the sale of smoking pipes and devices to minors; a law making it illegal for junk dealers and scrap metal processors to pay cash or to buy restricted items; and a law requiring gas stations to post a phone number or provide an intercom system so disabled drivers can call inside for help pumping gas.

Cities getting tougher on synthetic, dangerous pot substitutes

Sold as herbal incense in candy-like packaging, synthetic marijuana is dangerous enough to outlaw. So say city and county officials around South Florida.

Sweetwater has banned the stuff and Sunrise officials are expected to give final approval to a ban in June. Others may be close behind, including Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Hallandale Beach, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach and Miami Gardens.


Whats the Deal With FAKE POT?

English: The so called "incense blend&quo...

It sounds relatively harmless. Synthetic marijuana. Like pot for people who don’t want to get arrested.

For a while, that’s kind of how it worked. Hiding under the guise of “natural” herbal ingredients, with labels like “organic” and “herbal incense” and “fake weed,” the substance was able to spread from its European beginnings to a worldwide product, dispensed right out in the open.

Gas stations sold it. Smoke shops. Party stores. You could use it and still pass a drug test.

The problem is, there’s nothing fake about what fake weed does to some of its users.

And now that we know it, we must stop it.

Reports of psychotic behavior, violence and hallucinations should make every potential buyer beware. Side effects linked to seizures and anxiety attacks should, too.

And the fact that synthetic compounds are being used to make this stuff, changed and switched as if part of a mad scientist chemistry lab, should leave any potential customer running for the hills.

But the problem isn’t just the buyers.

It’s the sellers.

A judge on a mission

Now, I could understand this with your standard issue drug dealers. They are hard to identify, they slip into the shadows, they work streets corners and back rooms.

But the culprits in the synthetic marijuana story are often convenience stores, gas stations, smoke shops — easily found places of business that presumably need a license to operate and, most glaringly, someone to order the inventory.

So what’s the problem? If the same person who checks off the cigarette, potato chip and Pepsi orders is the person unpacking the Spice, K2 or other versions of this newest poison, why can’t they be identified? I doubt gas stations have a separate Shady Drug Purchasing Officer.

When a Troy district court judge, Kirsten Nielsen Hartig, filled up with gas recently, she decided to see how easy buying the dangerous substance could be.

“I asked for it, and the clerk really didn’t want to talk about it,” she said. “He reached down, grabbed a box and it had 15 different kinds to choose from. …

“He said, ‘I don’t even know what it is. Just take your pick and I’ll ring it up.’

When he did, Hartig said, it was rung up under “tobacco.”

That’s one very dangerous smoke.

Tell your kids the truth

States like Michigan are taking rapid action to prohibit the sale of this stuff, which has been linked to deaths all over the country, frequently young people who, under its influence, grow inexplicably violent or express urges to do damage.

A Washington state teenager stabbed a young woman to death. A Minnesota man shot himself in the head. Every story you read scares you more and more. And the fact that some claim it is now the third-most popular substance among high school-age kids should really make us shiver.

So should this: While many of these synthetic marijuana substances were made illegal in the last two years, there’s a huge loophole.

“It’s a very complex compound,” Hartig said. “All the manufacturers have to do is change just one of the compounds … or the amount of that compound … to circumvent the law and make it legal again.

“So basically the drug dealers, the drug pushers, are one step ahead of the law.”

When I asked why the manufacturers couldn’t be pursued, Hartig said on 15 different packets she examined, none had a name of a maker on it. “We think that it’s coming from India and China mostly,” she said, “but we have no idea what’s in it.”

When I asked the obvious question — “who is ordering this stuff?” — she replied, “That’s a good question.”

It needs to be answered. And it needs to be stopped.

Michigan is doing a good thing by encouraging businesses to display signs that say they are not carrying any of these products, and urging customers to stay away from establishments that do.

Meanwhile, the authorities should crack down on the latter. If we would chase down a drug dealer in a schoolyard, why wouldn’t we pursue a store that keeps a clearly dangerous product under the counter, and rings it up falsely under tobacco?

It sounds relatively harmless. Synthetic marijuana. But do a little research. Then sit your kids down and tell them the truth.

It isn’t.

Spice 101: What is it? Where Does it Come From? What are the Side Effects?

It’s been cited as the cause of 18-year-old Bloomfield Township resident Oliver Smith’s death and is alleged to have influenced 19-year-old Farmington Hills resident Tucker Cipriano’s fatal attack on his family. It’s called Spice, or K2, but what exactly is this increasingly infamous substance?

Trenton police are currently canvasing the city to find stores that might be selling the substance andasking them to stop.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines “Spice,” as “a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as ‘safe,’ legal alternatives to that drug.”

However, NIDA, law enforcement officials and doctors in the Metro Detroit area say the substance is anything but “safe.”

Although Spice is commonly defined as “synthetic marijuana,” Dr. Sanford Vieder, director ofBotsford Hospital’s Emergency Trauma Center, said, “it really isn’t. Marijuana has a sedating effect … This stuff actually has the opposite effect.”

Made up of dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives, the drug has been known to have psychoactive, or mind-altering effects. There is a “hallucinogenic component,” Vieder said, adding that “violent reactions to even the slightest stimulus” can be caused by the substance.

NIDA calls the labels on Spice products “false advertising,” as they often claim to contain “natural” psycho-active material from plants but don’t immediately alert consumers to their active ingredients, which are primarily chemical additives.

What’s in it?

Because the product is marketed as “not for human consumption,” there is no requirement on the part of manufacturers to list packaging contents or ingredient amounts, and no two packages are the same.

Even beyond the dangers of its chemical additives, the herbal mixture itself may produce allergic reactions to sensitive users, according to

The Drug Enforcement Administration has designated five of the chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it is illegal to sell, buy or possess them. However, because these chemicals can be easily substituted for others that produce similar highs, manufacturers of Spice products are able to continue selling the product legally.

Commonly sold as incense or potpourri, users will smoke the substance in joints or pipes, or even make it into a tea to achieve a high.

What are its side effects?

According to a recent article in The Journal of School Safety, one in nine high school seniors has used synthetic marijuana in the past year.

The article states that the use of Spice is now the second most frequently used drug among high school seniors, second only to marijuana.

The Drug Enforcement Administration states that smoking spice gives a person psychological effects similar to those of marijuana, including paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness. It also can cause increase heart rates and blood pressure. Because the manufacturing of Spice is not regulated, the DEA states the combination or herbs and chemicals used can be potentially dangerous, and smoking the drug can cause serious reactions including nausea and, in at least one reported case, brain swelling.

How does it achieve a high?

The compound K2 affects the brain in the same way as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Both compounds bind to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which primarily affect the central nervous system, but K2’s affect is about 10 times greater than THC, according to

In simple terms, this means smoking a small amount of K2 can prove just as potent as a larger amount of marijuana.

Where is it sold?

Typically, gas stations, head shops and the Internet. In response to public outrage over sale of the substance, BP and Citgo gas stations have recently asked their franchises to stop selling Spice and K2.

Manufacturers of Spice are not regulated and are often unknown since these products are often purchased over the Internet, according to the DEA. Several websites that sell the product are known to be based in China.

What does it look like?

Spice is typically sold in small, metalic plastic bags. The substance itself resembles dried leaves and is marketed as incense that can be smoked. It has also said to resemble potpourri.

What are other names for it?

Bilss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, Spice, Zohai, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, K2, Fake Pot