JWH-018 will give you a buzz just like marijuana? But it's legal? I will believe it when I see it.
High Times: Valley Smokers Buy, Steal, and Inhale JWH-018 to Get High – and They Say It’s Working
By Niki D'Andrea
Published on February 02, 2010 at 5:17pm
Nick Mathison leans over the glass display cases at Trader's Smoke Shop in Peoria and spreads a pile of flaky green herbs across the counter.
"I smoked some of this one night when I was watching a movie," he says, tucking tufts of his red hair under a black baseball cap. "And this really warm feeling started at the top of my scalp and just slowly moved down my face and head. I was on the edge of my seat watching this movie, but I felt really, really mellow. And all it took was one hit."
The herb on the counter resembles sage mixed with crumbled marijuana, but it's fuzzier and fluffier, filled with tiny brown hairs and minuscule crystals. It smells like dry leaves and black licorice and it's being sold in head shops all over the Valley as an "herbal incense blend" meant to be burned for aromatherapy.
But people have been smoking it in joints and pipes to get high.
Most of these grassy-looking incense blends, which come in a variety of brands and scents, contain a relatively new synthetic compound called JWH-018. Few studies have been published on the substance — which is legal (for now, anyway) in the U.S. — but recent DEA research indicates it may have the same effect as cannabis (marijuana). And this has made it very popular in Phoenix.
Local smoke shop owners say these "legal herb" incense products, often packaged in one-gram foil packets and sold for $25 to $45 each, are flying off shelves.
"This stuff has been around for years, but it's been very underground," Tim Martin, owner of West Valley smoke shop Herb N Legend, says. "The trend has just exploded in the last 60 days. People are buying a lot of this stuff."
And they're stealing it, too. Trader's Smoke Shop was robbed twice last year, first in early October and again in mid-November. Mathison, the store's manager, says the thieves were selective — they mainly cleaned out the store's three shelves of herbal incense. Last month, the Kind Connection Tattoo and Smoke Shop in Flagstaff was robbed for $300 worth of Spice Gold, one of the more popular herbal incense blends.
Mathison says he works hard to keep this new "legal herb" incense in stock. "Some people come in and buy several bags at once, and they get mad if you're out of their brand," he says. "It's like they're jonesing for it."
"Fake weed" isn't a new concept — companies like California-based International Oddities have been making imitation cannabis buds from herbs like lettuce, catnip, and damiana for two decades, packaging them in plastic tubes and selling them as legal smoke blends named after real strains of potent marijuana, such as "Hydro," "Inda-Kind," or "Thai Stix."
Although these products look like top-class marijuana buds and are advertised as "euphoric smoking experiences," they won't get smokers high, even if you blaze an ounce in one sitting. That's because none of them contains traces of tetrahydrocannibanol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, or any other known psychoactive ingredient, for that matter.
But the herbal incense blends that have hit the market in the past year are different. For one, they're not marketed as something to smoke. Every package specifically states they're to be used for incense or aromatherapy and are "not for human consumption." But the biggest difference is that these incense blends, with names like Pep-Pourri, Serenity Now, and Puff, contain the synthetic chemical compound JWH-018. Most mock pot blends sold as alternative smokes do not.
And the JWH-018 is what's getting people stoned. Though it's used almost exclusively as an ingredient in herbal incense now, it was first developed in 1995 for research, by organic chemist John W. Huffman at Clemson University in South Carolina. He created a chemical compound to try and find cannabinoid receptors in the brain — the parts that THC in marijuana bond with to produce feelings of euphoria — and research shows he was successful.
Christian Steup, a medical doctor and pharmacist at Frankfurt, Germany-based THC Pharm, which makes medicines from marijuana, told Chemistry World that JWH-018 is "four to five times more potent than tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC."
Unlike Salvia divinorum, a psychoactive, organic sage plant used in religious ceremonies by Aztec shamans
and now packaged and sold to head shops, JWH-018 is entirely synthetic. The effects are also different: People who smoke Salvia may hallucinate or experience spiritual trances; people who smoke JWH-018 claim it replicates a marijuana high: light-headedness or warm-headedness, a feeling of relaxation, even the munchies.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a study on JWH-018 in 2009. The resulting report noted the lack of published research on the substance to date, and described four DEA "behavioral pharmacology studies" in which animals were given JWH-018.
"In mice, it decreases overall activity, produces analgesia, decreases body temperature, and produces catalepsy [rigid muscles]," the report states. "JWH-018's activity in all four tests suggests that it is likely to have THC-like psychoactive effects in humans."
In other words, smoking JWH-018 will probably have the same effect as smoking marijuana. And it's perfectly legal.
Of course, you're not supposed to smoke herbal incense blends that contain JWH-018. Just as many head shop owners insist their bongs and pipes are for "tobacco use only," they try to watch their language when discussing herbal incense.
Asked if he's ever smoked any himself, Herb N Legend owner Tim Martin grins and replies, "I've burned it. It's supposed to be an incense, so I really can't discuss the effects of smoking it."
"It's like if I'm selling spray paint at Home Depot," Nick Mathison explains. "I'm selling it to you as paint — now, if you go outside and huff it, that's beyond my control. Well, I'm selling these products as incense. I can't control what people do with them when they get home."
But the government could. JWH-018 has already been banned in nine countries for its alleged psychoactive effects and health risks, starting with Australia in December 2008 and just last month in Russia and Belarus.
Lawmakers in the U.K. and Canada have classified JWH-018 as a "schedule II" or "class B" drug, which puts it in the same category as cannabis and marijuana derivatives. The chief medical officer of the Russian Federation found that JWH-018 has "psychotropic, narcotic effects, contain poisonous components, and represent potential threat for humans."
The DEA has classified JWH-018 as a "drug and chemical of concern," but it is not currently federally controlled under the Controlled Substances Act and is not illegal in any U.S. state — though lawmakers in Kansas are currently considering a bill that would ban it.
Some proponents of legal herb worry about spreading the word that people can legally get high by smoking "incense" containing JWH-018.
"Right now, it's legal, but the government's going to do what it always does," Martin says. "Once they find out people are getting high off something, they'll ban it. But you know what? Somewhere, somebody's already working on the next big thing."
Representative announces bill for K2
News - Spring Hill
Written by Chase Jordan
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 08:00
A new bill was recently announced about the use of unregulated synthetic drugs in Kansas, including two found in a smokable product known as K2.
Rep. Rob Olson of Olathe announced the bill in January after working with law enforcement officers. While working with officers, he learned about two chemicals — JWH-018 and JWH-073. According to a press release from Olson, the chemicals are similar to chemicals found in marijuana.
“There is so much that is unknown about these and other unregulated synthetic drugs,” Olson said in a release. [So lets make anything we don't understand illegal? Yes the old stick you head in the sand if you don't understand something!] “To hear that K2 is becoming more popular among high school students — that concerns me. So many times a kid will start out with minor drug usage that leads to a lifetime of addiction.”
Olson said his goal is to pass legislation to prevent youth from using the drug. House Bill 2411 would make the possession, use, sale and possession with the intent to sell of K2 and other products containing synthetic cannabinoids illegal in Kansas.
After the use of K2 increased in the fall, Johnson County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Chris Farkes asked to have the drug analyzed.
“It’s very concerning because the students don’t know what they’re getting,” Farkes said. “They think it’s harmless, but someone who uses K2 then drives a car or operates heavy machinery could put themselves and others in serious danger,” Farkes said in a release.
He said K2 is popular with former convicts on probation trying to avoid positive drug tests.
Jeremy Morris, Johnson County forensic scientist, said the herbal product has more intoxicating effects than tetrahydrocannadbinol (THC) — a chemical in marijuana. “The effects of THC happen when the chemical binds with receptors in the user’s brain, like a key fitting into a lock,” Morris explained in a release. “JWH-018 and JWH-073 are better keys than THC, and therefore, it takes less of them to get you high — and that high will last longer. K2 takes all of the negative effects of THC and heightens them.” Morris is also concerned about the long-term effects of the drug.
“Whenever we take a drug, or a drug product is smoked, the burning process converts the original chemicals in the product into a host of new combustion products,” Morris said. “Those who’ve studied these synthetic cannabinoids are concerned that, when smoked, some of the combustion products could cause cancer,” Morris said. Several countries have banned the sale of synthetic cannabinids. Some of them include Argentina, Canada, Poland and Russia.
Kansas is the first state to consider similar legislation.
Mitchell Hofmann, Spring Hill chief of police, and Sgt. Brian Holmes said they have not had incidents involving K2 in Spring Hill.
“What we’re finding right now to be the biggest problem is prescription drug use,” Holmes said.
Holmes said they have several ongoing investigations involving narcotics, and they are working to build a case for an arrest.
“Everyone thinks narcotics investigations move swiftly, but it takes time to build something in court, unlike what you see on TV,” Holmes said.
By MATTHEW CLARK
The Morning Sun
Posted Jan 15, 2010 @ 11:10 PM
PITTSBURG — On Wednesday, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee recommended approving a ban on certain synthetic drugs in Kansas.
Rep. Bob Olsen, R-Olathe, has introduced a bill that would regulate the synthetic drugs used in the smokable herbal product known as K2.
The bill was spurred after Olsen became familiar with the chemicals named JWH-018 and JWH-073. He said the chemicals are very similar to tetrahydrocannadbinol, or THC — the chemical in marijuana that gives users a “high.”
“There is so much that is unknown about these and other unregulated synthetic drugs. To hear that K2 is becoming popular among high school students ... that concerns me,” Olsen said. “So many times a kid will start out with minor drug usage that leads to a lifetime of addiction. My goal with this legislation is to prevent that from happening.” House Bill 2411 would make possession, use, sale and possession with intent to sell of K2 and other products containing synthetic cannabinoids illegal in Kansas.
A number of countries have moved to ban the sale of synthetic cannabinoids or the products that include them — including Argentina, Britain, Canada, Germany, Poland, France, and Russia.
Kansas is the first state to consider similar legislation. “We have some information on K2,” said Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton. “I don't recall any cases that we are working on that involve the substance.” Johnson County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Chris Farkes asked to have K2 analyzed after its’ use by high school students exploded last fall.
“It’s very concerning because the students don’t know what they’re getting,” Farkes said. “They think it’s harmless, but someone who uses K2 then drives a car or operates heavy machinery could put themselves and others in serious danger.” Farkes said the herbal product also is popular with former convicts on probation trying to avoid positive drug tests.
Johnson County Forensic Scientist Jeremy Morris said scientific testing found the intoxicating effects of JWH-018 and JWH-073 are more potent than THC. “The effects of THC happen when the chemical binds with receptors in the user’s brain, like a key fitting into a lock,” Morris said. “JWH-018 and JWH-073 are better keys then THC, and therefore, it takes less of them to get you high - and that high will last longer. K2 takes all of the negative effects of THC and heightens them.”
Classified as “synthetic cannabinoids” because of their close relation to THC, Morris said there also are concerns about the long-term effects of smoking JWH-018 and JWH-073. “Whenever we take a drug or a drug product is smoked, the burning process converts the original chemicals in the product into a host of new combustion products,” Morris said. “Those who’ve studied these synthetic cannabinoids are concerned that, when smoked, some of the combustion products could cause cancer.”
While there has been little known usage in Crawford County, Horton said that he would not be opposed to a measure regulating the substances.
“I think that it should be regulated simply because of its similarity to marijuana,” Horton said. “We have not seen it as prevalent here, but it is something that we could start to see.”
Matthew Clark can be reached at email@example.com or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140
K2 mirrors marijuana; on the rise in St. Louis area
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Some know it as fake pot.
Users say the leafy green herbal blend gives them a high similar to marijuana.
And for now, it remains legal in Missouri and Illinois.
It's called K2. Police say the brand of "herbal incense" is growing in popularity among teens and young adults in the St. Louis area.
But a proposed K2 ban in Missouri aims to kill the buzz about the herb before it really fires up. Meanwhile, police and school officials say they are concerned about its unknown health risks as it becomes more widespread. Kansas could soon become the first state to outlaw it, after its House followed the Senate and approved a bill Wednesday targeting chemicals used to make K2. bullet Get the latest St. Charles crime news in our Crime Beat blog
Missouri state Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, has introduced a bill to add the chemical compound in K2 to Missouri's list of illegal drugs.
"We've got to do something, because somebody's going to be using this, driving a vehicle and killing somebody," said Franz, who says K2 use is widespread in the Springfield, Mo., area. [ The old chicken little syndrome! ]
The dried herbs come in 3-gram packages of various flavors, including "Blonde," "Pink," "Citron" and "Summit." At least three shops in the St. Louis area sell them for about $30 per pack.
"It's taken off like wildfire," said Joe Kuhlenberg, 40, co-owner of the Hypnotized smoke shop in Florissant. Kuhlenberg says he has carried K2 for about four months and estimates he sells at least 100 packages a week. "The stuff just flies off the shelves."
K2 herbs contain synthetic chemicals that experts say imitate marijuana's effects on the brain. Other herbal blends such as Spice, Blayze II or Red Bird are available, but merchants and users say K2 is the hottest brand now because it packs a powerful, relatively cheap high.
"It's real popular," said Zach Baumstark, 19, of Lake Saint Louis, who recently bought three packs at the South 94 Bait Tackle and Smoke Shop in St. Charles County. He says he smokes it because it's a legal alternative to marijuana.
"I get an equal high (to marijuana), and it doesn't make me cough as much," he said.
The Missouri Highway Patrol crime lab in Jefferson City tested K2 samples submitted by police in Columbia and Springfield and found no THC, the narcotic in marijuana, or any other illegal substances. But one of the samples tested positive for synthetic cannabinoids JWH-018 and JWH-073, developed in the mid-1990s by Clemson University researchers conducting lab experiments on mice to test the compounds' effects on the brain.
Clemson professor John W. Huffman, whose initials give the compounds their name, said the effects on humans have never been studied. Research on the compounds suggests they are at least three times more potent than THC.
"I emphasize that this compound was not designed to be a super-THC," Huffman said in an e-mail to the Post-Dispatch. "It should absolutely not be used as a recreational drug."
Drug investigators with the Illinois State Police and the St. Louis city and county police departments say they know little about K2 and don't believe it has become widespread in the St. Louis area. St. Charles County sheriff's deputies began researching it recently after finding a discarded K2 wrapper in the parking lot of Francis Howell High School, said Sheriff Tom Neer.
"I'm hoping it's just trendy," Neer said. "If this compound has any effect similar to marijuana, then it's certainly a concern."
Leonard Naeger, a professor at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, said potential dangers of smoking K2 are not clear.
"I don't think it's gonna kill anybody," Naeger said. "But nobody knows what this K2 stuff does, because it hasn't been out long enough for there to be any documented studies on it."
K2 will be a main discussion topic at a meeting today of St. Charles County school resource officers at St. Peters City Hall.
Authorities are concerned that the manufacturer of K2 remains a mystery. Investigators say the blend first became popular in parts of Europe in 2008. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, some European and Asian countries, including France, Austria and Germany, have outlawed some products which contained the compounds JWH-018 and JWH-073.
Linda Weber, owner of the Vise shop in St. Peters, says she has been selling K2 to those 18 and older for about a month and knows people are using it to get high.
"I tell them, 'If you feel like you're growing a third eye, you might want to cool it,'" she said.
The packages, labeled "not for consumption," lack any information about where it's manufactured. Doug Franklin, 50, a Springfield, Mo., supplier to several vendors in the St. Louis area, insists K2 is a safe product that gives marijuana users a legal alternative. But he won't reveal where he buys it.
"We are producing such an ungodly amount of sales from K2 that it's beyond comprehension," Franklin said.
Dan Allder, 27, of St. Charles, began smoking K2 a month ago after hearing about it from friends. But he's not surprised police and lawmakers want it off the streets.
"It's just an alternative to weed is the way I look at it," Allder said. "It would be nice if the government could just keep their fingers out of it."