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 www.k2-incense.com, 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.