A reader writes:

Just wanted to share a story about Spice and the other versions of "legal marijuana" from the perspective of a regular cannabis user. 

First of all, from what I can tell, pretty much every brand of "legal marijuana" consists of some sort of herbal substrate coated with JWH-018, a super-potent synthetic cannabinoid developed by John Huffman at Clemson.  Several of Huffman's chemicals, including JWH-018, can be purchased in 100% pure powder form through any number of online suppliers.

After reading the increasingly frequent stories about these substances over the past year or so, my curiosity got the better of me.  I strolled down to a head shop right on Franklin Street here in Chapel Hill, and asked the proprietor if he had any Spice or K2.  He enthusiastically showed me all of the different available brands, and I asked him which one was the "best" (wink, wink).  He gave me his recommendation based on customer feedback, and I gave him 15 bucks for a gram of absolutely awful-smelling shake.

The first time I tried it, I smoked a small amount and sort of just waited to see what happened.  The stuff definitely had a noticeable and immediate effect, and on its surface it was indeed similar to the cannabis high.  However, it was a very flat, one-dimensional experience.  Unlike with cannabis, there was no actual mood elevation or "body high".  It also lacked the subtle changes in ego and perception, which is my favorite thing about cannabis.  It was simply a brain buzz - undeniable, but without any truly enjoyable texture or nuance.  Oh, and the stuff tasted as terrible as it smelled, and felt incredibly harsh on the lungs.

The next time I tried it, things were much worse.  I'd had 2 or 3 beers over the course of an hour or so, and decided to break it out and try it again.  The alcohol emboldened me, so I packed quite a large bowl and took a few healthy rips of the stuff.  I immediately regretted it.  So, so very sick.  The room was spinning, I was in a cold sweat, and I promptly emptied my entire stomach contents.  The rest of the night was spent on the couch, shivering and sweating at the same time, moaning to myself and just hoping it would be over.  I actually missed work the next day because I was so drained and nauseated.

I absolutely adore cannabis, and have since my first awkward toke at fifteen.  I will never, ever touch any so-called "legal marijuana" again in my life.  This stuff is vastly more dangerous than even the strongest cannabis or plant-derived concentrate, and it owes its very existence to our insane war on what should rightly be considered a miracle plant.  It absolutely does follow in the proud steps of bathtub gin, crack cocaine, and shake-and-bake meth.  That our legal structure pushes people toward the use of this shit is the true crime.

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