Synthetic Marijuana: A Deadly Imposter

Synthetic marijuana was banned in Maryland on Oct 1. Although the drug was already illegal by federal law, the new state law allows local police officers to take more action in preventing the distribution and usage of the substance.

According to the law, possession of synthetic marijuana can result in up to four years in prison and the distribution of the drug can result in up to 20 years in prison.

Synthetic marijuana, also known as “Spice” and “K2,” is very different from the more well-known and natural marijuana. Marijuana is natural can-nabis that contains THC, which causes the high of marijuana, whereas synthetic marijuana is laced with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC.

The death of 22-year-old Charlie Eichler in Montgomery County in July brought attention to the harmful substance and its dangers. After months of using the substance, Eichler suffered from the long-term effects. Eichler wore adult diapers, was not able to walk and lost the feeling in his fingers and toes.

In July, Eichler took his own life. Eichler’s parents blame synthetic marijuana for the loss of their son.

“I firmly believe if he hadn’t started using this, he’d still be with us today,” Eichler’s father told FOX 5 News.

According to, there have been no scientific studies conducted on the direct effects of synthetic marijuana on the human brain. However, some compounds found in the substance bind strongly to the same brain receptors that THC binds to, causing a powerful effect. The high produced has caused some to have intense symptoms such as rapid heart rate, vomiting, confusion and hallucinations.

“I’ve never seen something turn someone into such a worthless, drooling zombie like synthetic weed,” Sergeant William Nieberding of the Rockville City Police said.

Others who have used synthetic marijuana say that the high is much like that of marijuana, but with more negative side effects.

“The high of synthetic marijuana wasn’t as strong or long-lasting as the high of regular marijuana,” an anonymous RHS student said. “It also gave me a headache that lasted after the high was gone.”

In other places, manufacturers would change the illegal chemicals in synthetic marijuana to similar chemicals that were legal. However, the Maryland ban addresses this and states that if the drug mimics the effects of THC, then it is illegal.

Synthetic marijuana has grown increasingly popular among young people, perhaps because of how easy it has been to purchase the substance in gas stations and on the internet. Although it is sold with the label “not for human consumption,” synthetic weed became the second most used drug by high school seniors last year, according to a University of Michigan study.

Maryland lawmakers and police officers hope that this ban will keep the substance out of reach and will save lives of potential users.