K2 and Spice are popular terms for synthetic marijuana peddled as legal weed. But to a 79-year old scientist who developed the compound that actually gets the user high, they are JWH-018, JWH-073 and JWH-200.
And he wants those seeking a legal high to stop smoking fake marijuana products. He supports efforts to ban these substances and legalizing-and tax-the real deal, according to a Los Angeles Times profile of the scientist, John W. Huffman.
You can't overdose on marijuana, but you might on these compounds, he told the paper. These things are dangerous, and marijuana isn't, really.
Huffman created these compounds to test on lab animals to treat pain and inflammation, even some skin cancers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Because the compounds mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, they were mixed with herbs and marketed as incense.
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Selling these products, sometimes marketed as incense, can mean a lot of green. Derek Williams, who created a brand called Syn Incense in his Missouri home, told Bloomberg Businessweek in March that he has sold more than $1.5 million worth of the product in less than a year.
The Los Angeles Times cited a figure from the American Association of Poison Control Centers that said facilities have received 4,500 calls over the last two years synthetic marijuana users.
With potentially dangerous side effects, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in November banned for a year five chemicals used in these phony pot products, including three of Huffman's creations. Huffman told the paper that he supports the ban.
The one-year ban provides the DEA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to study whether these products should be permanently controlled, according to the agency.