“Spice” and Herbal Marijuana Alternatives

Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists historically have been synthesized in biomedical research to understand the neuropharmacology of cannabinoid action and to develop new therapeutic agents. However, approximately 10 years ago (around 2004), street chemists began synthesizing alleged herbal products called “Spice” in Europe and “K2” in the United States. Manufacturing such “herbal” products was neither illegal nor controlled. Although little is known about the exact composition of these herbal products, numerous compounds with CB1 receptor agonistic activity have been used as additives in smokable herbal products to attain psychophysical effects that are similar to those of smoked THC. These compounds are known by the JWH designation (synthesized by John W. Huffman at Clemson University) or CP designation (Pfizer), such as JWH-018, JWH-073, and CP 47497-C8. Later, numerous chemically similar compounds were identified in such herbal mixtures (for further reading, see Seely et al., 2012; Musshoff et al., 2013). In 2011, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration gave Schedule I status to the synthetic cannabinoids listed above, although preparations of these compounds are still available on the Internet and in local shops that sell drug paraphernalia in the United States.

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