Last week, we reported on a synthetic Cannabinoid compound called JWH-018, which is sold in herbal-incense blends at head shops around the Valley. Smoking this compound is said to have the same effect as smoking marijuana, which has led lawmakers in Kansas to seek a ban on the substance (check out this week's feature story about the substance and the proposed ban in our sister paper, Kansas City's Pitch Weekly).
In the spirit of journalistic research, we smoked several brands of herbal incense over the course of a month leading up to the news short linked above. And while JWH-018 is still legal in Arizona, there are a few other things you should know about smoking it:
1. Not all incense blends are created equal. There are dozens of herbal-incense blends containing JWH-018 on the market right now, and each one has slightly different herbal ingredients, ranging from damiana root and molasses to Siberian motherwort and honey. The herbal blend doesn't matter compared to the amount of JWH-018 in the blend, and while no brands list the exact amount of the compound in their incense, some herbal incense blends seem to be more potent than others. The strongest blends we tried were Serenity Now, Puff, and Spice.
2. JWH-018 is more expensive than real pot. Most of the herbal-incense blends containing JWH-018 are sold in one-gram bags, for about $25 each. The street value for potent strains of marijuana ("chronic") is about $14 a gram.
3. Herbal incense blends are harsh. These herbal aromatherapy blends with JWH-018 are not marketed as something to smoke, which might explain why they all taste like crap. But the effects on the throat and lungs are worse than the dirt-and-dung flavor. Granted, smoking anything is not good for one's respiratory system, but smoking herbal incense can make your throat burn and your lungs ache, hours after the last hit.
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4. JWH-018 does not mix well with alcohol. Most drugs don't mix well with alcohol, but having a glass or two of wine with JWH-018 can exacerbate hangovers and cause headaches at the base of the skull that last for hours.
5. It doesn't give you "the munchies." While some smokers have reported getting extremely hungry after puffing JWH-018, others (us included) didn't have any urges to cram cupcakes into their faces. Marijuana's known for inducing the munchies, but JWH-018 doesn't seem to feed the need for Cheetos.
6. The high last no more than 30 minutes. The effects of smoking JWH-018 don't last long -- probably an average of 10 minutes, or half an hour at best for the more potent herbal blends. It doesn't seem to take much more than a hit or two off a pipe to trigger JWH-018's heady high, but the feeling won't last beyond a single episode of South Park.
(For our ongoing coverage of synthetic marijuana products and news, check out our "Buzz Buzz" blog at Phoenix New Times' arts and culture blog, "Jackalope Ranch.")