All You Need To Know About Spice K2 Synthetic Marijuana

What is K2/Spice?

K2 or Spice is a concoction of herbs and spices that are sprayed with a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of THC. They are originally marketed as herbal incense and are sold in head shops, tobacco shops, online and offline retail outlets, and at gas stations.

What are the synthetic compounds found in K2/Spice?

The synthetic cannabinoid chemicals that are typically found in K2 or Spice include the following:

  • JWH-018 (1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole)
  • JWH-073 (1-butyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole)
  • JWH-200 (1-[2-(4- morpholinyl)ethyl]-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole)
  • HU-210; HU-211; CP-47,497 (5-(1,1- dimethylheptyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol cannabicyclohexanol; CP-47,497 C8 homologue (5-(1,1-dimethyloctyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol)

JWH-018 is one of the complex kinds of synthetic cannabis or synthetic marijuana that is known by various brand names such as K2 and Spice, and which are sold as "herbal incense" or "herbal smoking blends."

Also referred to as fake weed, JWH-018-K2 is one of the 100 indoles, pyrroles, and indoles first synthesized by Professor John W. Huffman in Clemson University and was originally developed as an analgesic.

Because JWH-018 is a full agonist of both CB1 and CB, its effects on the body and mind of the person ingesting it tends to be more intense than THC, which is just a partial agonist of cannabis.

Although synthetic cannabis has been used for therapeutic purposes, JWH-018 alters an addicted person's mindset and may cause extreme anxiety, seizures, and convulsions. This is because of GABA neurotransmissions, which are more effective than THC.

Other Forms of JWH

JWH-018-K2 got its name from its proponent John W. Huffman. It is usually brown color, usually lumpy, dry or sticky in nature. JWH-018-K2 has many forms that also contain analgesic properties.

The following are some examples and short descriptions of the other forms of JWH.

  • JWH-007: A chemical derivative from naphthoylindole family, which has lower binding capability than JWH-018 of only 9.50nM at CB1 and 2.94nM at CB21.
  • JWH-015: Considered to be a subtype-selective cannabinoid agonist which has a stronger binding capability in CB2 than in CB1. Proven to be functional in treating immunomodulatory effects.
  • JWH-018: A full agonist to both CB1 and CB2 but with a little selectivity for CB2.
  • JWH-030: A partial agonist at CB1 which entails only 50% potency compared to THC.
  • JWH-051: Its structure is similar to the potent cannabinoid agonist HU-210 but has more affinity for CB1 than CB2.
  • JWH-073: A partial agonist at both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors but with a little selectivity on CB1.
  • JWH-081: Affinity is approximately 10 times at CB2 and is fairly selective at CB1.
  • JWH-133: Potently selective at approximately 200 x in CB2, and is known to prevent inflammation related to Alzheimer's disease such as Amyloid Beta.
  • JWH-147: A cannabinoid agonist for both CB1 and CB2 with only a little selectivity on CB2.
  • JWH-200: An analgesic chemical from aminoalkylindole family with potency almost the same as THC with a binding receptor 42nM on CB1.
  • JWH-203: A less potent agonist with only 51.0nM affinity on CB1.
  • JWH-210: An analgesic chemical from naphthoylindole family
  • JWH-250: Considered as one of the most potent 4-substituted Naphthoyl derivatives in the naphthoylindole series with a higher binding affinity at CB1. This is primarily harmful to health.
  • JWH-307: A type of analgesic drug and agonist to both CB1 and CB2 with 7.7nM at CB1 and 3.3nM at CB2.
  • JWH-359: Considered to be a type of dibenzopyran "classical" cannabinoid drug which is more selective at CB2.
  • JWH-398: A type of analgesic chemical from naphthoylindole family which has only mild selectivity to both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

What are the other names for K2/Spice?

K2/Spice comes in a variety of street names, such as:

  • Algerian Blend
  • Black Mamba
  • Blaze
  • Blue Lotus
  • Buzz
  • Chill X
  • Dawn
  • Dragon’s Slice
  • Earthquake
  • Fire & Ice
  • Genie & Zohai Orange Dragon Smoke
  • Hush
  • Mojo
  • Moon Rocks
  • Pep Spice
  • Potpourri
  • Pulse
  • Red X
  • Serenity Now
  • Skunk
  • Smoke
  • Spice 99
  • Spice Diamond
  • Spice Gold
  • Spice Silver
  • Synthetic Marijuana
  • Tropical Synergy
  • Voodoo
  • Yucatan Fire

What does K2/Spice look like?

K2/Spice is practically easy to spot. These herbal blends come in small, silvery plastic bags of dried leaves and marketed as incense that can be smoked. It is said to resemble potpourri.

What are synthetic cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds that mimic the effects of THC – the principal active ingredients of cannabis. In 2008, Volker Auwarter, ScD and colleagues in the forensic toxicology lab at the University Hospital Freiburg, Germany found that the Spice herbal incense products contained at least two different designer drugs known as synthetic cannabinoids.

What are the classifications of synthetic cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids have been classified according to the chemical structures of the molecules, as suggested by Howlett et al. and Thakur et al. This classification has also been referred to in a report by the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) which deals with the generic definition of synthetic cannabinoids.

  • Classical cannabinoids (THC, other constituents of cannabis; and their structurally related synthetic analogs e. g. HU-210, AM-906, AM-411, O-1184)
  • Nonclassical cannabinoids (cyclohexylphenols or 3-arylcyclohexanols such as CP-47,497-C8, CP-55,940, CP-55,244)
  • Hybrid cannabinoids (combinations of structural features of classical and non-classical cannabinoids, e. g. AM‐4030)
  • Aminoalkylindoles (AAIs), which can be further divided into naphtoylindoles (e. g. JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-398, JWH-015, JWH-122, JWH-210, JWH-081, JWH-200, WIN-55,212); phenylacetylindoles (e. g. JWH-250, JWH-251); naphthylmethylindoles and benzoylindoles (e. g. pravadoline, AM-694, RSC-4).
  • Eicosanoids (endocannabinoids such as anandamide, and their synthetic analogs e. g. methanandamide)
  • Others, diarylpyrazoles (selective CB1 antagonist Rimonabant®), naphtoylpyrroles (JWH‐307), naphthylmethylindenes or derivatives of naphthalene-1-yl-(4‐pentyloxynaphthalen-1-yl)methanone (CRA-13).

Health Studies About JWH-018

Synthetic cannabinoids do not have original marijuana content. However, they tend to cause more potent effects than actual marijuana when smoked. With approximately 4 times the potency of actual marijuana, JWH018-K2 has caused several addictions in the United States.

A survey conducted by the Idaho Hospital Association (IHA) showed that out of the 20 hospitals serving the state, 11 have experienced dealing with the drugs Spice and K2. In addition, more than 80 cases of Spice addiction were reported to have occurred during the months of February to August 2010.

The federal government warns that the "high" experienced from smoking JWH-018-K2 causes severe hazards to the cognitive and psychological aspects of an addicted person.

How Does JWH-018-K2 Work?

JWH-018-K2, along with JWH-073 and JWH-250 that are common in cannabis smoke, works by depressing the central nervous system through binding on CB1 receptors with 3-fold preference. Smoking at least 3 to 5 mg of the substance every day may alter human emotions, impair the ability to decide, and cause memory loss.

In addition, various medical studies have shown that further abuse of JWH-018-K2 may lead to extreme sedation, which may end up with comma, euphoria, paranoia, and anxiety.

It creates a constricting effect on the cardiovascular system, which includes faster heart rate. Because of this, it becomes life-threatening as it leads to various dangers such as heart attack and stroke. JWH-018-K2 results in scarier withdrawal symptoms than regular marijuana, which include tremors, nausea, diarrhea, and severe palpitations.

Physical Signs of Abuse

A person who smokes JWH-018-K2 may be spotted by several physical change and effects that the drug causes:

  • Anxiety attack
  • Bloodshot eyes and droopy eyelids
  • Frequent sickness
  • Paranoia, particularly fear of dying
  • Severe disorientation
  • Severe memory loss and dementia
  • Tachycardia
  • Weight loss

A person addicted to synthetic marijuana may experience the following symptoms:

  • Becoming more deceitful or secretive in terms of money and whereabouts
  • Can be found staring at mid-air and laughing at nothing.
  • Clenching teeth as a sign of craving for the drug
  • Decreased motivation or loss of goal
  • Disappearance for longer periods of time
  • Frequent intake of water due to excessive thirst
  • Hyperactivity such as becoming more talkative and sporty for specific time span
  • Lethargic
  • Often times avoiding eye contacts with families, friends, and relatives and even other people.

Can JWH-018 Be Detected in A Drug Test?

JWH-018 cannot be detected through typical immunoassay screening methods used in screening urine samples for cannabis. However, it can be detected through two processes known as Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS or HPLC/MS).

GC/MS uses the combination of gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify specific drug metabolites in a specimen. Meanwhile, LC/MS is a prevailing technique used to identify positive drug metabolites in highly sensitive and selective applications by using a combination of liquid chromatography's physical separation capability to the mass spectrometry's analysis of the specimen's mass.

Even though it is banned in various places, JWH-018-K2 is still accessible through the internet, head shops, and gas stations.

Drug testing kits have been developed and have proven helpful for a variety of drug treatment and criminal justice situations. A urine drug test is one effective means of testing for the presence of JWH-018-K2 and JWH-073 metabolites in urine for 3 to 4 days.

Synthetic marijuana drug testing is also available in the market and can test for 10 different drugs at one time (including synthetic marijuana).

The presence of JWH-018-K2 may be detected through gas and liquid chromatography combined with tandem mass spectrometry, which follows the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) cut-off level for cannabis of 50 ng/mL.

What is the legal status of synthetic cannabinoids in various countries?

On November 24, 2010, the DEA notified the public through the Federal Register of their intent to temporarily control five synthetic cannabinoid chemicals found in so-called “fake pot” products such as K2 and Spice. At present, the control status of these compounds differs significantly from country to country.

The table below shows an overview of the legal status of synthetic cannabinoids in various countries based on the report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).


Enforcement Date

Controlled substances / Remarks


January 2009 - October 2010

‘Spice’ products classified as medicinal preparationsCP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9, JWH‐018, HU‐210, JWH‐015, JWH‐019, JWH‐073, JWH‐081, JWH‐200, JWH‐250


March 2010

CP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9, JWH‐018, JWH‐073, HU‐210, JWH‐250, JWH‐398, JWH‐200


July 2009

CP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9, JWH‐018, JWH‐073, HU‐210


February 2009

JWH‐018, CP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9, HU‐210


January 2009 - January 2010 (Planned for 2011)

emergency regulation, JWH‐018, CP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9permanent control and addition of JWH‐019, JWH‐073JWH‐015, JWH‐081, JWH‐200, JWH‐250, JWH‐122


June 2010

JWH‐018, JWH‐073


November 2009 - September 2010

controlled as “designated substances” under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law: CP‐47,497‐C7/C8, JWH‐018, HU‐210JWH‐073, JWH‐250


May 2009

CP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9, JWH‐018, JWH‐073, HU‐210, JWH‐250,JWH‐398, JWH‐200


December 2009

CP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9, HU‐210, JWH‐007, JWH‐018, JWH‐073,JWH‐081, JWH‐098, JWH‐122, JWH‐149, JWH‐166, JWH‐175, JWH‐176, JWH‐184, JWH‐185, JWH‐192, JWH‐193, JWH‐194, JWH‐195,JWH‐196, JWH‐197, JWH‐198, JWH‐199, JWH‐200

South Korea

July 2009

JWH‐018, HU‐210, CP‐47,497


September 2009

CP‐47,497‐C6/ C7/C8/C9, JWH‐018, JWH‐073,HU‐210


May 2009 - December 2010

control of ‘Spice herbal mixes’ under food regulation (5 grams allowed for personal use), JWH‐018, JWH‐019, JWH‐073, JWH‐250, CP‐47,497‐C6/C7/C8/C9

United Kingdom

December 2009

generic approach


Not controlled under federal law (as of November 2010)

HU-210 is scheduled as an analog of THCDEA announcement to emergency schedule JWH‐018, JWH‐073, CP‐47,497, CP‐47,497‐C8 and JWH‐200