Synthetic Marijuana, What are the Dangers and How to Avoid It?

Now that weed has been decriminalised in South Africa, it’ll be easier to control quality and content. However you might still end up coming across dodgy products, so it’s important to be able to distinguish synthetic marijuana and the real deal. Why should you know how to tell them apart? 

Fake weed can be dangerous. Normal cannabis products are natural and low-risk, but the chemicals used to make fake weed are a whole other story. Here are some of the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

— It is stronger. This may sound great, but over-eager high chasers should be careful. Synthetic weed does not contain the cannabidiols in natural weed that help to protect you from THC’s negative effects. This can lead to bad trips and psychedelic effects and is more likely to cause long term damage to the brain. A study comparing the effects of synthetic vs real marijuana found that the fake stuff caused far more disorientation and altered behaviour than the real plant. It also contributes to long-term health issues such as high blood pressure, seizures, and anxiety. 

— It is unregulated. This means that anything can be added to the substance, very often including chemicals that are not judged safe to consume. It is impossible to know what has been added, and in what quantity – and although the stuff is often sold as ‘organic herbs’, there are no synthetic weed products without man-made substances added. Although real marijuana is still unregulated in South Africa (the production is still illegal and therefore impossible to monitor), the worst you can usually find in the natural product are the pesticides used in growing. The added substances in synthetic weed are far more dangerous. 

So how do you spot the imposter? Luckily, it’s not too difficult.
Name. Synthetic marijuana is often marketed under specific names. These include “Spice” “K2” and “Black Mamba”.

It’s not a bud. Only a shady dealer would sell you pre-ground weed instead of buds. Since synthetic marijuana doesn’t grow on a plant, it can’t be sold as a happy little nugget. Loose herbs could be anything, so don’t smoke anything unless you know it came as a bud.

Smell. If you’re not a cannabis connoisseur, this one might be a little trickier. I’m sure that most people, however, have walked down a side street in the evening and gotten a little whiff of that dagga. If you know what real weed smells like, you probably won’t be tricked by the fake. The synthetic stuff can have a variety of smells, coming from the herbs used or the chemicals added. If what you have doesn’t smell like your friend’s university res on a Saturday night, it might not be the real deal. 

Synthetic marijuana is one of the negative effects of legislation against cannabis. Without proper legislation, dangerous products and harmful practices continue to thrive on the black market. Until the production, purchase, and consumption of marijuana products become legal, people will continue to put themselves in harm’s way in order to get high. 

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