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Synthetic Marijuana: Do's and Don'ts for Buying Spice at Head Shops


Before entering a head shop to buy "spice," it's important to learn the legal lingo.
Before entering a head shop to buy "spice," it's important to learn the legal lingo.
Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who's ever been to a head shop knows that you have to watch your language. You don't ask about "bongs," but "water pipes." You don't ask for "something to clean out my system for a drug test," but "something for detox." And when purchasing glass crack pipes, a customer can only ask how well their "tobacco" will burn in them.

Similarly, you can't walk into a head shop and ask if they sell "legal bud," "legal herb," or "synthetic marijuana" (well, you could, but you'd be universally told "no"). Sure, they sell herbal blends (often referred to as "spice") that will get you high if you smoke them, but these herbal blends are labeled as "incense" with a warning they're "not for human consumption."

So how does someone who wants to try smoking spice go about buying it at a local head shop without being ousted for "illegal language?" A hopefully helpful list of "Do and Don't" is after the jump.

Don't:
Ask about "legal bud," "legal herb," "synthetic marijuana," or "that stuff that's supposed to get people high."
Do:
Ask if they have "herbal incense blends like Spice or K2."

Don't:
Ask the sales associate if he's smoked the blend and how well it works.
Do:
Ask the sales associate if he's ever "burned" this particular incense blend, and if so, how "strong" the incense is.

Don't:
Ask the sales associate how you're supposed to smoke herbal incense, or even indicate that you plan on smoking it (some sales associates may refuse to even sell incense to you if you reveal your true intentions in the store).
Do:
A little research. A quick Google search for "synthetic marijuana" or "spice" will reveal links to dozens of news articles and forums, where users talk about smoking it. Employing the Greek maxim "All things in moderation" is always a good idea.

Don't:
Buy herbal incense or spice off Craigslist or on the street. Head shops have more liability with the products they sell, and are less likely to sell "dirty" incense blends with mystery herbs and unknown compounds and doses of synthetic cannabinoids.
Do:
Check the selection at your local head shop. If a head shop carries several brands of herbal incense with varying flavors and degrees of "aromatic potency," there's a good chance store management and employees have done their research about the products and brands.

Don't:
Ask the sales associate if a particular incense blend contains synthetic cannabinoid compounds. If it's sold as an "herbal incense blend," the synthetics are in there.
Do:
Ask about the herbal ingredients in a blend. Many blends contain catnip, which is very harsh on the throat and lungs when smoked. Numerous blends also contain damiana (often labeled as "turnera diffusa"), which has been used traditionally in Central and South America as a relaxant. Some spice smokers says damiana enhances the potency of synthetic marijuana, so inexperienced smokers might not want it in their first blend. The smoothest and least harsh components in herbal incense blends are usually marshmallow or a common weed called mugwort.

(For more information on synthetic marijuana, check out the Buzz Buzz archives.)



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