Dangerous Synthetic Cannabinoid “Incense” Floods Market
(APN) ATLANTA — Spice. K-2. Head Trip. Spaz. Spiz. Mr. Miyagi’s Warpaint Zero. These are just a few of the many herbal incense products which have flooded Atlanta markets, as some citizens look for a way to get a legal buzz.
The incense packages sell anywhere from ten dollars up to fifty dollars per gram. They are clearly marked as incense, and some even say they are not intended for human consumption. But wink-wink nod-nod; all parties involved seem to know that the incense by-the-gram is actually used for smoking.
They each contain a mixture of herbs–some of which have been used ritually in indigenous cultures for hundreds of years–but are also sprayed with a marijuana-like synethic cannabanoid.
The synthetic cannabanoids are produced in labratories; they are structurally very similar to the active cannabanoid in marijuana. But because they are not technically marijuana, they are not illegal. Legal or not, there is no doubt that they are harmful to the body. The idea of putting something that is clearly dangerous in one’s body because it is the closest thing to the real deal, marijuana, demonstrates addictive behavior. People in this situation can visit r-e-h-a-b.org for help overcoming this addiction to prevent further damage to their bodies.
While the federal US Drug Enforcement Agency recently banned several of the compounds, the chemists keep coming up with new ones. Therefore, they’re completely unregulated.
“The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control five chemicals (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol) used to make so-called ‘fake pot’ products,” the DEA said in a March 01, 2011, statement.
“Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety. The temporary scheduling action will remain in effect for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled,” the DEA said.
“Since 2009, DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products. At least 16 states have already taken action to control one or more of these chemicals. Emergency room physicians report that individuals that use these types of products experience serious side effects which include: convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting, and disorientation,” the DEA said.
However, even today there are dozens, if not hundreds, of brands of herbal incense available, including at head shops across the US, including in Atlanta’s Midtown and Cheshire Bridge neighborhoods.
Atlanta Progressive News reviewed several of the packages after receiving a complaint from a source, who wished to remain anonymous, that they tried smoking several brands of the herbal incense, and this caused what they felt was either a very rapid heart beat or heart palpitations.
While each of the packages listed a few ingredients, each of these ingredients were herbs like sage; nowhere on the packages were any of the new synthetic cannabinoid compounds even listed.
One product, Ultra Weekend, listed the following herbs as ingredients: Canavalia maritima, Nymphaea caerulea, Scutellaria nana, Pedicularis densiflora, Leonotis leonurus, Zornia latifolia, Nelumbo nucifera, and Leonurus sibiricus.
One product, Kanabliss Max, lists damiana leaf, marshmellow leaf, dandelion leaf, and blue lotus extract 50:1 P.E. as ingredients.
Another product, Spiz, lists alviae foleum, turnera diffusa, verbascum thaspus, and artemesia vulgaris as ingredients.
Spiz also lists a website on its package, spizdoctorz.com. But when APN went to the website for more information, it was not a working website.
Mr. Miyagi Warpaint Zero did not list any ingredients on the package.
Another brand, Sweet Lucy, carries the following statement on its package: “Use this product at your own risk. This product is not intended for human consumption. This product may be dangerous to your health if ingested. The herbs have not been evaluated by the FDA. The company and its associates cannot be held accountable for any actions or choices after purchase.”
One head shop in Atlanta carried the following brands of herbal incense in their store: Mr. Miyagi, Mr. Miyagi Warpaint, Mr. Miyagi Warpaint Zero, Phoenix 2.0, Kannabliss, Kannabliss Max, Rush XXX, Rush XL, Hayze, K4 Diamond, Diesel, Zombie, Zombie Killa, and Spaz.
Another head shop carried the following brands: Cloud Storm, Zombie Zilla, Super Kush, Bayou Blaster, Ultra Weekend, Witch Dr., Head Trip, Mojo, Extremely Legal XXX, Funky Monkey, Baby J, and Posh.
Unlike marijuana–which has years of peer-reviewed research to support its non-harmfulness, and even some its health benefits–there is no comprehensive research on the use of herbal incense.
When Atlanta Progressive News asked four different clerks at different head shops throughout Atlanta whether it was normal for customers who smoke the herbal incense products to complain of a rapid heart beat, they each said yes.
One clerk suggested trying a weaker blend to avoid such a side effect; a chart on the wall in the store ranks the incense products by strength. One clerk in the same store said he had experienced the rapid heartbeat, but said, “I try to remind myself that it’s all in my mind.”
Marijuana decriminalization advocates say the dangers of herbal incense are just another harmful societal by-product of marijuana prohibition.
“As long as marijuana is illegal in the states, this entire perverse market place for synthetic analogs will continue to exist, ie, spice. If marijuana was legal, the marketplace would have a choice, and would choose marijuana which is organic and non-toxic,” Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told APN.
“Plus a person cannot overdose from marijuana, nor can it cause psychosis, like the legal and dangerous synthetic analogs, which are easily available. As long as marijuana is illegal, other variations of Spice will be introduced, every time one is made illegal,” St. Pierre said.
When asked who manufactures the herbal incenses, St. Pierre said, “I do not know who is behind this profitable industry, but they are growing more powerful, and now have a lobby group, which is called the Coalition for Cognitive Liberty, along with a website coglib.org.”
As it turns out, the Coalition for Cognitive Liberty is based out of Alpharetta, Georgia, a suburb to the north of Atlanta. It is headed up by Executive Director, Dan Francis.
“The Coalition for Cognitive Liberty was formed to protect the rights of businesses in the incense industry. The government seeks to regulate or ban incense products, the Coalition for Cognitive liberty seeks to stop them. The most recent assault on liberty is the way states are responding to the emergence of indole based fragrance enhancers in incense mixtures,” the organization’s website states.
“We are ready to fight the DEA ban, The Coalition believes that the ban is a very dangerous way to manage the synthetic cannabinoids. The ban will create an extensive black market and render control of the substances to drug cartels,” the website states.
While the Coalition refers to synthetic cannabinoids as fragrance enhancers, in other parts of the website there seems to bean implicit acknowledgement and defense of individuals smoking the products.
At one point on the website, the Coalition is critical of claims that synthetic cannabinoids are causing rapid heartbeats.
“These kids’ hearts are racing and their blood pressure is way up—which is exactly the opposite of what it should be on K2,” the website says.
The synthetic cannabinoid compounds were first developed by Dr. John W. Huffman, a professor of organic chemistry at Clemson University in South Carolina for over fifty years, as part of a research project.
Huffman told the Phoenix New Times magazine in 2010 he is disturbed by the proliferation of herbal incenses as a result of his research.
“There are no valid, peer-reviewed studies of the effects of this compound in humans, nor are there any data regarding its toxicity,” Huffman told the New Times, likening smoking the compounds to “playing Russian Roulette.”
“I emphasize that this compound was not designed to be a super-THC,” Huffman says. “It should absolutely not be used as a recreational drug.”
(END / 2011)