Health Authorities Caution Against Dangers of ‘Fake’ Pot

The weed may be fake, but the potential dangers are real.

That’s the message health authorities in Canada and the United States are sending out about a herbal incense product that, when smoked, mimics some of the effects of marijuana.

Sold online and in head shops under brand names such as K2, Spice and Yucatan Fire, the packets of dried herbs (including white and blue water lily, dwarf skullcap and blue lotus) are infused with one or more synthetic cannabinoids — molecules that mirror the psychoactive properties in marijuana.

Though the products are typically marketed as incense or potpourri, “It is believed that these products are generally smoked by consumers for their stimulant properties,” said Ashley Lemire, a Health Canada spokesperson.

And while these products can deliver a marijuana-like high, they’ve also been known to have other side-effects, authorities say.

In late March, the American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning about the imitation pot, saying users reported a racing heart rate, agitation, anxiety, confusion and nausea.

“Parents should be on the lookout for what looks like incense in their child’s room and watch to see if their children seem more anxious than usual,” the warning said.

A memo from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration last year referred to the herbal products as “stealth marijuana.”

In just the past few months, several U.S. states have outlawed or are planning to outlaw the sale of certain synthetic cannabinoids, whose long-term health effects have not been fully studied, authorities say.

In Canada, synthetic cannabinoids are already considered a controlled substance, but that hasn’t stopped herbal products containing those illegal ingredients from entering the country.

Lemire said Health Canada is working on distributing information to law-enforcement agencies and border officials to help them identify products containing the illegal substances so they can be “seized at points of entry into Canada and removed from retail outlets.”

Health Canada was spurred to act after police departments contacted the agency uncertain whether the products were legal to sell or purchase, she said.

One website that sells K2 products is, where three-gram pouches of K2 herbal blends go for between $30 and $60.

In an e-mailed statement, the website’s operators, who refused to identify themselves by name, said their products are “sold strictly as incense” and that they are safe. “We do not condone misuse/abuse of the product,” the statement said.

The statement also said that the K2 brand has been “hijacked” by counterfeiters who sell a poor-quality product made in amateur chemists’ kitchens, basements and garages.

“More bans of our product will result in more counterfeiters and more issues. Brings you back to the Prohibition of the ’20s and the counterfeiters making alcohol in filthy warehouses and basements. Long live the government and its eternal wisdom!”

Jodie Emery, the wife of high-profile Vancouver marijuana activist Marc Emery, who recently surrendered to authorities on charges of selling marijuana seeds to Americans, said she doesn’t think the market for synthetic marijuana is as big in Canada compared to the U.S. because real marijuana is so much more accessible north of the border.

She said she knows people who’ve tried the imitation pot, and the reaction is always negative.

Instead of mellowing them out, she said, “it makes them anxious.”

– Article from Vancouver Sun.



  1. Ryan on

    Considering the undeniable medicinal potential of many cannabinoids, these substances (particularly the JWH series) should be studied scientifically. Instead the Canadian government made them illegal before they were even invented.

    While natural cannabis is undoubtedly healthier and safer, when you weigh ‘unknown health effects’ against the very real risks of incarceration it’s no wonder these products are in such ‘high’ demand.

  2. Anonymous on

    ANother reason to legalize Cannabis Sativa, Indica & Ruderalis!!!! The fake shit is only made to replace the illegal weed with legal spices, herbs etc. It probably tastes like garbage and would assume it isn’t healthy because well, the herbs can be grown, but the synthetic ingredients are not grown, produced in a lab like methamphetamine!!! It is a chemical & not a herb! ANd even if it is based on cannibinoids, its only like having a hot dog, getting raped by lips & assholes! These products are advertised a lot. Already been around for more than 10 yrs, maybe 15 yrs, but I have seen a great expansion in the varieties over the last 5 yrs. If this is because of counterfeit makers then guess what… LEGALIZE MARIJUANA IS NECESSARY!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. one12alpha on

    As one of the more drug-educated people among my peers, I am often asked my opinion about this crap. Is it good? Is it what I’m looking for? etc.

    I’ve tried it, with no negative effects. But generally I say, If you’ve used marijuana, and that’s what your looking for, this is not for you…but, If you have not, then you may well be satisfied with it. I do, however, caution that with marijuana you at least know what it is. With “spice” far to few users are able to tell me what it is they smoke, aside from a name brand or a generalization “spice.”

    Granted, there is the possibility of purchasing some marijuana laced with something else….that has a lot to do with why it should be legal. But with these “fake weed” products, the people selling them have no clue whats in them either. Odds are, your street dealer will know if his supply is laced.

    Ultimately, though, the choice is yours. If you wanna roll up toe nails and hair, and toke it up…be my guest. Just don’t ask me to join in, I’m sticking with the MJ.

  4. Anonymous on

    if you use med mar for sycho you will go off into a rage on fake pot

  5. Audreanne on

    Stick with weed, guys. I tried this and it was the worst experience of my life. It was nothing like marijuana. I never have any negative side-effects (other than weight gain ^^) when I smoke marijuana. After smoking “K2”, I spent over 24 hours throwing up, and over 72 hours of debilitating nausea. When I smoked this stuff, I felt like I could not talk or move. My heart was racing and I had a great deal of trouble breathing. I am a huge marijuana advocate….this stuff is nothing like it. Just DON’T do it. It is not worth it. It was disgusting.

  6. Anonymous on

    This article is telling us to stick to the real weed. Thank you Vancouver Sun