Synthetic marijuana sickens at least 221 Coloradans in a month, report says

As you know, real marijuana is now legal for 21-and-over adults in Colorado, at least in small amounts.

But smokable "synthetic marijuana" remains illegal -- and a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows why.

In August, use of synthetic marijuana was linked to 221 Colorado emergency-room visits -- one of the largest totals since the quasi-legal compounds first became popular a few years ago.

According to the CDC's account of the illnesses, the majority of the patients went to the hospital with increased blood pressure, while others say they felt aggressive, agitated and confused. Ten people were put in intensive care, but there were no reported deaths -- despite rumors of as many as three people dying as a result of smoking the chemicals. The patients' median age was 26, and 80 percent of them were male.

In its report, the CDC identified numerous brand names for the chemicals, including Black Mamba, Crazy Monkey, Crazy Clown, Dead Man Walking, Funky Monkey, Sexy Monkey, SinX, Spice, TenX, Twilight and 3X. Two convenience stores, a head shop and a gas station were listed as the points of sale, though the agency didn't identify the specific culprits. The CDC attributed the hospitalizations to two new types of synthetic smokable drugs, ADBICA and ADB-PINACA, neither of which have any actual connection to marijuana. Both chemicals are listed as Japanese research chemicals that were reverse-engineered from existing Pfizer patents; neither has been tested on animals, let alone humans.

Based on that, it's more appropriate to call these things "synthetic drugs" than synthetic marijuana. But marijuana is at least partially responsible for the popularity of synthetic drugs: Because they often can't be detected by drug tests, they became popular alternatives for people unable to consume real cannabis. The CDC noted the testing difficulties in its report, saying that it was hard to determine which substance and how much of it each person had consumed.

And despite laws banning the synthetic drugs, they are still widely available. A quick Google search of the chemical names brings up numerous offshore "research" companies willing to send over grams of the stuff to anyone with a credit card.

This isn't the only time this year that synthetic smokable drugs made the news in Colorado. Back in September, Colorado Springs mother Stephane Colbert sued the convenience store that had sold her son "Mr. Smiley" in 2011, after federal bans on the drugs and their analogs were passed.

More from our Marijuana archive: ""Marijuana decriminalization for people under 21 a happy surprise, advocate says:" and ""

William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes