Nicholas Alford – The Corsair
It goes by many names: Bay Breeze, 420, Headhunter or the most common name, Spice or K2 Spice. It comes in several different “flavors” like vanilla, pineapple or strawberry, and depending on where you buy it, whether it be at a head shop, gas station or liquor store, looks mostly like potpourri or catnip.
Its marketed as “herbal incense” which would imply that this product is simply a way to make your house smell good by burning it. Each package is labeled “not for human consumption” though it’s hard to see how inhaling the scented fumes from the product isn’t considered consumption in itself. It’s sold by the gram and, depending on where you buy it, will cost anywhere between $10 and $40 per gram.
But most people in the know call it “fake pot,” or “that fake pot stuff.” It is meant to be smoked and its effects are comparable, and even sometimes stronger, than those you would feel when smoking cannabis. The advantages of using this product is that it does not contain THC, so it will not show up in a urinalysis. It has become a very popular product among those who enjoy recreational marijuana but face the problem of being in some sort of institutional prohibition such as correctional probation or regular employment.
The disadvantage of this product is that little is known about what exactly is used to make it, and many people who smoke it claim that it is much more harsh than smoking cigarettes. It is also much more expensive than regular pot.
“I sell about five pounds of this stuff a day,” said Mike Lewis, a local business owner who switched from selling comic books to Spice four months ago.
According to Lewis, the comic book business slowed substantially in wake of the recent recession. He has his own blend which he makes himself, but would not comment on whether or not it should be smoked directly. “The comic books now only make up about one-half percent of my business,” Lewis said.
The substance appears at first to be a mixture of certain kinds of plants that create the effect, but that is only a part of it. The mixture is different depending on where it’s purchased, but typically contains ingredients such as Canavalia maritima, Nymphaea caerulea, Scutellaria nana, Pedicularis densiflora, Leonotis leonurus, Zornia latifolia, Nelumbo nucifera and Leonurus sibiricus; all of which are plants that have some minor psychoactive properties, but do not in any known combination create profound mind altering effects.
The one thing that all the different brands have in common is that they contain a compound called JWH – 018, a synthetic cannabinoid first developed at Clemson University by Dr. John W. Huffman (hence the JWH) in 2006. The compound is first diluted in water, sprayed generously onto the mixture and left to dry; a process that is repeated depending on the target potency of the blend before it is packaged.
The compound itself is not the same as THC. If it is not properly diluted, can have side effects such as intense anxiety and agitation and has even been known to cause seizures and convulsions.
The compound is banned in 16 counties including the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany and many states, including Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, have moved to criminalize the compound as well. Legislation has also been proposed in Florida to ban the compound, but has not as of yet made to the Legislative branch for a vote.