Ask an Expert – Is synthetic marijuana really bad for you?

If synthetic marijuana is bad for you, how come I can buy it at the tobacconist? 

So called ‘synthetic cannabis’ (or ‘synthetic marijuana’) has been available for some time now and started to hit the headlines a couple of years ago. It was produced by companies who saw that there was a market for a ‘legal alternative’ to cannabis (marijuana, pot, grass, etc). These companies bought synthetic cannabinoids (compounds that mimic the effect of the chemical compounds in cannabis like THC) and then sprayed them onto herbal mixtures and then packaged them up and sold them either online or in specialist shops such as ‘head shops’, sex shops and even tobacconists.

Governments across Australia made a number of these substances illegal but each time they did the manufacturers would slightly ‘tweak’ the compound and they would once again have a legal product.

The NSW Government recently made changes to their laws that did not target the drug specifically but rather the sale of anything that claimed to be psychoactive. This has seen the availability and sale of these products decrease dramatically in that state. As a result, Victoria has also adopted similar laws. The issue of so-called ‘synthetic drugs’ (the correct term is ’emerging psychoactive substances’ (EPSs)) is a complex one and I can’t imagine we’re going to see this problem disappear anytime soon, although these recent legislative changes certainly seem to be a step in the right direction.

For more information about synthetic drugs, read my blog post ‘Synthetic drugs’, ‘research chemicals’ and ‘legal highs’: What are we really talking about here?

Paul Dillon, Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA), www.darta.net.au

Our Ask an Expert Week panelists are all qualified professionals in their field. However, advice given on The Kids Are All Right website is not a substitute for direct, personal, professional counselling or psychological care, medical care and diagnosis.

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