Teen Dies After Smoking New Form of Synthetic Marijuana

Three weeks ago a boy in Texas died after smoking synthetic marijuana. Oscar Maldonado began coughing and vomiting, and soon passed out. A couple of minutes later his heart stopped beating. Fifteen minutes later his friends took him to the hospital where doctors were unable to revive him.

Maldonado was smoking a package of Headhunter 2.0, a substance only banned under Texas state law two months earlier. The ban of Headhunter 2.0 follows on the heels of other synthetic marijuana products such as Spice and K2. Unlike these two products though, Headhunter 2.0 markets itself under the label “herbal incense”.

It now appears that herbal incense is a stronger and more dangerous form of synthetic marijuana. This new drug is habit forming, psychedelic, and unpredictable. In other words, herbal incense bears no similarity to cannabis.

Marijuana is illegal in all but a few states, making synthetic marijuana an attractive option to individuals hoping to get around the hassle of buying real cannabis. It is, after all, legal. Therefore, herbal incense is regulated, safe, and cheap, right? Wrong.

Synthetic drugs are increasingly becoming a major problem for local law enforcement and emergency responders. Many times the risks of synthetic marijuana are underestimated or simply not known due to the assumption that, because one can legally purchase the product, it must be safe.

The problem lies in quality control. Authorities and consumers alike have no way of knowing how much chemical was used on the herb, or for that matter what chemical was even used. Unlike real cannabis, herbal incense does not produce a high from the plant itself. Rather, it is the sprayed chemical responsible for the high, not the plant.  

It is a common misconception that herbal incense mimics the effects of marijuana. In actuality, the effects could not be further from cannabis. A synthetic marijuana high produces severe agitation and anxiety, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, vomiting, muscle spasms, intense hallucinations, psychotic episodes, and - as in the case of Oscar Maldonado - death. One should note that not one of these effects are produced after using cannabis.

Many drug addiction counselors recently began discussing patients recovering from herbal incense. These patients say that reformulated synthetic weed is more powerful than previous incantations and more addictive. One self-proclaimed user mentioned the fact that withdrawal symptoms come within days of first using. By all accounts, its a pretty hard drug to kick for something that can be bought at your local head shop.

The back of herbal incense packages cleverly states, “not for human consumption,” giving the manufacturers of this product an easy out. As a young video blogger said after smoking and reading the back of the package, “bullshit”.

It is ridiculous that true marijuana is illegal when there is a synthetic, very dangerous chemical version that is legal. Synthetic marijuana poses infinitely more risks to the user than real marijuana begging the question, why not simply legalize the real thing? Universal legalization of cannabis will completely eliminate the dangerous synthetic marijuana market.

In the mean time, more teenagers risk addiction and even death in their pursuit of a high. Actual marijuana does not cause any of the health risks synthetic marijuana poses. Its utterly ridiculous that such a dangerous drug can be obtained legally when its real counter part is harmless yet remains illegal.