The simple existence of synthetic marijuana should send a loud message to the public and elected officials. When our policy pushes people to a chemically-laced alternative to a non-lethal plant, simply so that they don’t face arrest for the safer substance, we have a fundamentally flawed law.
For those who may be unaware, synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to by the brand names of Spice and K2, is a mix of dried flowers/herbs which is sprayed with a mix of chemicals that are designed to artificially stimulate the body and brain in a fashion similar to cannabis.
It doesn’t work.
Still, people have continue to use it, despite its potential health risks. In 2010, over 11,000 people were sent to the emergency room over the use of synthetic marijuana. Miscellaneous 78 percent of those were under the age of 30.
Whether or not synthetic cannabis is truly dangerous, it’s clear we know very little of any potential short or long-term effects, and it holds the potential of health-related repercussions. It’s also undeniably more dangerous than cannabis, a substance that’s entirely natural and impossible to overdose from.
As questioned with alcohol, this entire situations begs the question; “Marijuana is safer, so why are driving people to synthetic substitutes?”
Up until the point of the DEA putting an emergency ban on the product, making it a schedule 1 controlled substance, synthetic cannabis was a legal alternative for people who didn’t want to risk the prosecution associated with cannabis use. Despite these bans, K2 and other fake cannabis products are still showing up in various convenience stores and smoke shops around the country.
As expected, the ban has started to create an underground market. This market is destined to stay relatively small, but will continue none-the-less, wasting tax-payer dollars along the way as the government enforces its ban.
As with all prohibitions on humans putting substances into their body as they so choose, this prohibition won’t work, and squashes any possibility of the product being safely regulated.
More importantly, this approach blatantly ignores the primary issue, which is that we continue to push people away from the safest recreational substance possible – cannabis – and towards dangerous substances like alcohol and fake marijuana, all over the continuation of a travesty-filled prohibition.
This is where opponents of legalization have it backwards; they often argue that legalization will increase usage rates, as if it’s suppose to be an obvious deterrent. Despite this having no statistical merit, it can hardly be seen as a negative consequence when it would steer people away from dangerous and lethal alternatives like alcohol and fake cannabis. Clear examples of this can been seen in recent studies showing that medical cannabis states have seen alcohol rates drop, which has been accompanied by a reduction in things such as traffic fatalities and suicides. It would clearly lead to a reduction in fake alternatives as well.
Most people would rather use the safer substance, and should be given that option without having to live in fear of draconian cannabis policies.