CLEAR does not advocate, condone, or encourage breaking the law. It exists to promote a change in the law by legitimate means. All information on this website should be viewed in this context.

Synthetic Cannabinoids, "Legal (And Illegal) Highs" - A Warning

12 Jul 2012


Spice is the most famous brand name. A herbal mixture, sprayed with synthetic cannabinoid(s) and marketed as a smoking mixture. It's horrible stuff that produces a horrible effect. In fact, since December 2009, it's been just as illegal to possess or sell as cannabis but that means chemists and unregulated Chinese manufacturers have produced new variants that circumvent the law, new analogues of delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), the key active ingredient in cannabis.


It is horrible stuff and I strongly recommend you don't touch it or anything like it. However, it's important that you know the facts.


All these products are based on slight molecular variations of THC but the benefits of cannabis are much more complex than that. It is the interaction of around 100 cannabinoids in the plant together with terpines, flavonoids and other compounds that produce the delightful and therapeutic effects. CBD, with antipsychotic and pain relieving effects is the next most significant but CBN, CBG, CBC, delta-8-tetrahydrocannibinol and many others are gradually being understood.

The effect of synthetic cannabinoids is vile. It is really, truly horrible. They have none of the inherent, natural, protective balance of real cannabis. They cause paranoia, anxiety, fear, delusions, all the symptoms that describe psychosis, the term that has been used to demonise cannabis which, in its natural form, is actually very safe and contains anti-psychotic agents. Worse than that, they can lead to elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations, seizures and vomiting. As well as the lack of natural, counterbalancing ingredients, they are also believed to bind more strongly to the cannabinoid receptors, increasing the duration and potency of their effects.

CLEAR does not suggest that these products should be banned. Prohibition is a dangerous and irresponsible policy that always causes more harm than it prevents.

Remember, Spice is already banned but it hasn't made any difference. Chemists across the world are happy to continue designing new chemicals and there are plenty of unscrupulous manufacturers who will service the trade and businessmen that will distribute it. There is an ever-increasing number of "legal highs" coming on the market every week. Many are designed to operate on the cannabinoid receptors. At the end of the supply chain is your local head shop and CLEAR would suggest that they too should consider whether it is responsible to sell these products.

These synthetic cannabinoids and all "legal (and illegal) highs" are the product of prohibition. They would not exist, nor pose any significant problem, were it not for the ludicrous, self-defeating and harmful policy followed by the British government and other misguided administrations all over the world.

The only answer is to regulate, to introduce a system of licensing, age restrictions and consumer protection. It won't eliminate the problem entirely but at least it will give us some degree of control, because prohibition provides none.

The ultimate answer is to end the prohibition of cannabis.

It would be useful if readers could share any experience of synthetic cannabinoids here. These will be strictly moderated to ensure there is no promotion or encouragement towards specific products.

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