Synthetic Marijuana is Entering the States

Synthetic marijuana or, as kids call it, “spice” or “K2,” is becoming the new drug of choice.  It gets kids high and is currently legal.

Although it’s considered a brand new drug, coming mostly from Hong Kong, some Penn Manor students claim they’ve tried it, others have never heard of it.

“I think it’s awesome,” said a Penn Manor senior, “I’ve tried it before but don’t remember the difference from regular marijuana.”

The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., wrote an in-depth report on the substance in an April 29 article.

According to The Gazette article, much of the K2 is packaged in Hong Kong.

Synthetic marijuana is sometimes called "K2."

The article explained that many tobacco or “smoke shops” claim the substances are herbal in nature but that they are actually laced with either JWH-018 or JWH-073, or both.

“Both of those compounds were created years ago in a Clemson University laboratory. Somewhere along the line, companies overseas obtained the compounds and started producing the herbal blends now being sold in the U.S,” the article states.

Lancaster’s Puff ‘n Stuff on North Queen Street carries a similar product.  Not called “spice, k2, or synthetic marijuana, an employee there insisted their product, sold as a herb, has the “same effect.”

The employee described the product as botanical or herbal incense and named some of the brands including, “Paradise and Bajou Blaster.”

According to an employee at Puff ‘n Stuff, you must be 18 years of age to purchase anything tobacco-related.

The Tobacco Palace in Park City Center said it does not carry any of the herbal incense products.

Nature’s Way in Elizabethtown carries both K2 and Spice which costs from $15 to $40 per gram and “must be smoked liked incense,” according to the clerk who answered the phone there.

Jason Hottenstein, Penn Manor’s Resource Officer said that he has heard of it but locally it has not been discovered yet.

“As far as the law enforcement community goes it has not yet been an issue,” said Hottenstein.

“I want to stress that these compounds were not meant for human consumption,” John Huffman, a Clemson professor whose group created the synthetic chemicals, commented in the Gazette story, “their effects in humans have not been studied and they could very well have toxic effects and they should absolutely not be used as recreational drugs.”

According to Huffman, these chemicals were created to understand relationships between structure and the biological activity of substances known as cannabinoids, which could result in new therapies for liver disease and other forms of cancer.

At this point, these chemicals are not being used for studies other than young kids wanting to get high.

According to The Phoenix New Times, the chemical JWH-018 in the synthetic marijuana is what is responsible for the high that kids are seeking.

Kids are bringing their new fad to school Photo courtesy of

“We heard a little bit about it four or five months ago,” said Jerri Lerch, executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Consortium of Allen County, commenting in the New Times article. “High school personnel heard kids were sprinkling it on cereal and also smoking it.”

Within the last two months, Erin Roberts, Penn Manor’s Juvenile Probation Officer, said she has heard about it from kids she is monitoring.

“I would approach it like I would cigarettes,” said Roberts, “I would advise them to refrain from it.”

“Any mimic of drug use or possession is treated the same way as if they had illegal marijuana,” said Doug Eby, Assistant Principal. “[The punishment would be] ten days out of school suspension.”

After the ten days of OSS, a board hearing will be held and the board members will decide if the student(s) will be expelled.

“Synthetic drugs and herbal drug products like Spice and K2 are not made in a controlled environment and thus you are playing Russian roulette when it comes to these types of products,” said Dawn Dearden, a spokeswomen for the DEA, commenting in a published report.  The agency first began receiving reports about abuse of the substance last year.

“There is no way, outside of a controlled laboratory environment, to determine the chemical makeup, synthetic ingredients or amounts, and therefore there is no way to determine with any accuracy what the potentially harmful effects may be,” said Dearden.

Although this synthetic substance is currently legal, if you are pulled over, you will still be charged with driving while impaired, several law enforcement officials warn.

Penn Manor students have mixed views on the legal status of synthetic marijuana.

“It’s still negative to health and should be illegal,” said junior Quinn Nadu.

“I think it’s nice that it’s legal,” said junior Lindey Kunkel, “but I also think it opens a door to legalizing regular marijuana.”

By Sarah Garner and Kendal Phillips