Here’s What You Need To Know About Synthetic Marijuana

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We aren’t talking about synthetic marijuana enough

Last week, at least 76 people overdosed in a New Haven, Connecticut, park. The overdoses happened over 36 hours.

That number is startling.

The drug they overdosed on isn’t getting enough attention. The overdoses are believed to have happened after people used a drug commonly known as synthetic marijuana that was laced with fentanyl.

The local police chief said that a sample sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration for testing had shown the drug was just synthetic marijuana, but they had sent more samples and were awaiting additional tests. At least 72 people who overdosed were taken to local hospitals, but there were no fatalities.

Part of a pattern

Here’s the thing: This wasn’t the first outbreak associated with synthetic cannabinoids. Earlier this year, Chicago experienced a fake weed–related outbreak of illnesses in which 164 people were affected. At least three people died in that outbreak.

In Chicago’s case, the fake weed was contaminated with a rat poison. Three people were arrested in connection with that incident.

What are we dealing with here?

Synthetic cannabinoids are also known as synthetic marijuana or fake weed, or by brand names like K2 and Spice. They contain an artificial chemical that is sprayed on dried plants so it can be smoked. They can also be sold as a liquid, to be used in a vaporizer.

Why is weed being dragged into this? The chemicals are called cannabinoids because they mimic chemicals found in marijuana, but they don’t actually have much in common with cannabis.

Is fake weed legal?

No. It’s illegal but it’s often sold in convenience stores, smoke shops, gas stations, and online. In addition to K2 and Spice, some of its other names are Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Genie, and Zohai.

People who sell it try to get around the regulation by labeling it “not for human consumption.”

What else do I need to know?

Well, unlike plant-based cannabis, the side effects of synthetic cannabinoids can be severe, and include kidney damage, muscle damage, seizures, and the need for antipsychotic medication. That’s intense.

One expert we talked to said, “Whatever you think about plant cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids are definitely medically and psychiatrically dangerous.”

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SNAPSHOTS

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More than 100 people gathered in Chicago Sunday night to protest the death of 15-year-old Steven Rosenthal. He died from a gunshot wound that police said was self-inflicted after a brief chase with officers. Police said that they stopped Rosenthal Friday to ask him about a handgun he was holding, and then briefly chased the teen after he ran. Shortly after they gave chase, police said, Rosenthal shot himself. His family has strenuously denied that the teen would take his own life and is asking for an investigation and body-cam footage of the incident.

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New Zealand’s minister for women, Julie Anne Genter, rode her bike to the hospital to give birth on Sunday. “Beautiful Sunday morning for a bike ride, to the hospital, for an induction to finally have this baby,” the Green Party MP posted on Instagram with photos of her and her partner with their bikes. She said they cycled to Auckland City Hospital because there wasn’t enough room in the car for their “support crew,” but that the ride also put her in the “best possible mood.”

ONE MORE THING…

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