Last week, over 30 people were hospitalized in New York City; all of the victims had been taking synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is an unpredictable and unregulated chemical substance that physically resembles cannabis. K2 has been long available in the head shops and corner stores, attracting the poorer part of the population with its low price (about $1 for a joint). Although many big cities, including New York, forbid the manufacture and sale of Spice, the problem remains to be solved.
Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of industrial chemicals splattered on dry leaves packed in bright packages and sold under a large amount of various names—Spice and K2 are the most popular among them. Although K2 usually looks like cannabis, its effects differ from those of natural weed. Thus, K2 may cause high blood pressure, shaking and seizures, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and even paranoia.
The popularity of K2 can be explained by its low price. While an ounce of natural weed can cost up to $350 on the street, the price for Spice is usually about $50 online or $10 per bag in some head shop or corner store. Thus, Spice is in great demand among teens and homeless people. Moreover, because synthetic marijuana is not a single substance, it does not show up in drug tests.
As the consequences of consumption reached dangerous levels, many states, such as Nebraska, New Hampshire, and New York, prohibited the sale of the substance. The regulation helped decrease the availability of the drug; however, manufacturers are constantly changing the compounds to skirt the bans.
Making cannabis legal can decrease the demand for K2, saving people’s lives and driving down the number of health injuries, because natural marijuana is much less dangerous than its synthetic analog.