The scientist behind synthetic cannabis says the products
''absolutely should not be used as recreational drugs''.
Emeritus Prof John W. Huffman, of South Carolina, developed
synthetic cannabinoid compounds that bear his initials (such
as JWH-018 and JWH-073) in his laboratory more than 15 years
Those compounds were widely discussed in scientific
publications, and ''evidently some people have figured out
how to make them and are putting them in products''.
The compounds were ''not meant for human consumption'', he
''Their effects in humans have not been studied and they
could very well have toxic effects. They absolutely should
not be used as recreational drugs.''
Prof Huffman, an organic chemist at Clemson University, said
the compounds which are appearing in ''fake marijuana''
products were among many created by his group, and others,
during research supported by the National Institute on Drug
Abuse between 1984 and 2010.
That research aimed to understand the relationship between
the chemical structure and the biological activity of
substances known as cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids include THC - the active ingredient in cannabis
plants - but also other substances that interact with the
cannabinoid receptors in the brain and other organs, he said.
''These receptors don't exist so that people can smoke
marijuana and get high; they play a role in regulating
appetite, nausea, mood, pain and inflammation.''
The receptors could be involved in the development of
conditions such as osteoporosis, liver disease and some kinds
of cancer, Prof Huffman said.
''Synthetic cannabinoids can help us understand these
interactions and, ultimately, this knowledge may contribute
to the development of new therapies.
''Again, I would emphasise the risk people are taking when
they smoke these products. We simply don't know what the
health effects might be.''