Synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as “spice” or “K2” was especially popular when it was legal in the early 2000s. It is likely that you’ve seen one of the many videos featuring people that have run into some serious problems after using synthetic marijuana, but why did synthetic marijuana even come onto the market? What was the need for this drug and why was it so easy to obtain for so long? Well, it all boils down to one thing: the War on Drugs.



Synthetic marijuana is exactly what it sounds like in one way, though the name is misleading, overall. Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists are spritzed all over a plant material, which the user will then smoke, as thought it were marijuana. Sadly, the effects can be much worse than cannabis, as it can be potentially dangerous to the user, and by potentially dangerous, I mean dangerous beyond the possibility of eating everything in the pantry.

Like one may find different marijuana strains, synthetic marijuana also comes in a number of forms, but not for the same harmless reason as marijuana does. Instead of being genetically enhanced to better the plant, synthetic marijuana is found in a number of forms because the DEA keeps finding dangerous formulas that they illegalize. A few include, but are not limited to: JWH-018, HU-210, and cannabicyclohexanol.


The demand for synthetic marijuana is in direct correlation to the War on Drugs. Considering cannabis is illegal on the federal level and all over the world, there was an increased demand for a legal cannabis alternative. That is how K2 came to fruition.

In the early 2000s, synthetic marijuana was legal, mostly because it was still in the early stages of its creation. You could find it at your local gas station or head shop, and it would often be labeled as “incense” with the stipulation that it was not meant for human consumption. The fact of the matter is, K2 tends to actually smell quite putrid, so it makes little sense than it would ever be used as incense. That is because it was not meant to be. Despite the label, manufacturers were well-aware of its intended use, and they were quick to cash in on its sale.

Naturally, cannabis users that were subject to drug tests were overjoyed to have a new alternative, especially since many baggies of K2 claimed to be made of organic ingredients like dwarf skullcap, lion’s tail, and honeyweed. Unfortunately, upon testing, it was discovered that many bags of K2 did not even contain the herbs on the ingredients list. In fact, German laboratories oftentimes could not even determine what the plants actually were.

Despite the bizarre chemicals, the legality was enough to entice new users, both cannabis-smokers and non-smokers. The drug was often said to be more potent than cannabis, which only contributed to curious minds.

Legal marijuana alternative? More potent than weed too? What could go wrong?

Well, the answer is: a lot.


After K2 was introduced to the market, it seemed that a growing number of health problems were being found in users. Said health problems were not prevalent in cannabis users before them. Some of the more mild side effects included: nausea, vomiting, irritation, high blood pressure, panic attacks, and hallucinations. More severe symptoms were: seizures, psychosis, heart attack, and convulsions.

Not only were the symptoms increasingly negative, but unlike marijuana, the drug led to at least one confirmed death.

Also unlike cannabis, users were struggling with addiction. While it is often argued that marijuana may be psychologically addictive, physical addiction has never been confirmed. With spice, however, users went through withdrawals as soon as they stopped using the drug after three or four months. Synthetic marijuana was officially worse than the real deal, even by the DEA’s standards.


While the DEA and hospitals all over the world are struggling to control the negative aftermath from the synthetic marijuana craze, they fail to understand one thing. With no demand, there is no need for a supply, and there would have never been a demand for spice if traditional cannabis was not a Schedule I drug. The War on Drugs created synthetic marijuana, but that does not mean we can’t put a stop to its popularity.

Cannabis legalization would end the demand for synthetic marijuana, other than among established K2 users. Hopefully, we will see a much brighter, spice-free future.