New formulas for Spice, synthetic marijuana and LSD — keeping one step ahead of the law

People who want to get legally high and who think alcohol (or in certain states, marijuana) is just too old fashioned and boring, have entered a sort of cat-and-mouse game with state legislatures.

As soon as those august lawmaking bodies pass restrictions against some new mind-bending substance, people who make those substances just change the chemicals up a bit.

The problem is, they often make a dangerous substance even worse.

Read this Deseret News story to get an idea of what’s happening. Several years ago, young people in Utah and elsewhere started getting high with substances called “spice” or with bath salts or, believe it or not, good old-fashioned nutmeg, which can be smoked or consumed, as the experts say, to excess.

The Utah Legislature, for instance, outlawed some of these substances a few years ago. Until that time, police would find people acting strangely or in ways that posed a danger to themselves and others, but there was nothing they could do. According to this National Conference of State Legislatures story from late last year, 45 states and Puerto Rico have banned at least some of these substances.

Even in Washington state and Colorado, both of which recently legalized marijuana for recreational use, you can’t get high on spice.

But not long ago news stories started to appear about chemical changes that were allowing people to remain just beyond the long fingertips of the law. Candy weed, or marijuana brownies made with a synthetic form of THC and mixed with corn syrup, is one of the latest trends.

Emergency rooms and poison control centers are reporting a surge in calls from people suffering ill-effects. Synthetic marijuana, methamphetamine and even LSD are being concocted somewhere and distributed in parts of the United States.

And, as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration told the Deseret News, “It’s killing people. It’s destroying people’s minds.”

It’s also destroying all those myths that simply legalizing drugs like marijuana will sap the strength of cartels and gangs. There apparently is no end to the expanding list of mind-altering substances, each with the allure of either gaming law enforcement or providing a high that’s not available over the counter.

And each is guaranteed to provide a nice profit to some seller.

Lawmakers have little choice but to draft some kind of catchall law that might end up being too broad, or to empower health officials to keep a step ahead of the changes, as some states have done.

The alternative is to simply legalize everything and to sacrifice unsuspecting and immature minds on the altar of permissiveness. That would not be my choice.

Categories: Uncategorized

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.


  1. Adam McDonald

    Jay states that legalizing marijuana has not curbed the increase in use of these more dangerous and illicit drugs, but provides no proof to back this up.

  2. B.d.H.

    Heh, if I didn’t know any better I’d think this was a nice troll article.

    “The alternative is to simply legalize everything and to sacrifice unsuspecting and immature minds on the altar of permissiveness”

    You have got to be kidding me. There is no evidence that any of these substances are dangerous. Just because people use them irresponsibly and overdose does not mean they are inherently dangerous. People overdose on alcohol and go to the ER as well. Do you suggest another prohibition era, or would you rather “sacrifice unsuspecting and immature minds on the altar of permissiveness”?

    “Synthetic marijuana, methamphetamine and even LSD are being concocted somewhere and distributed in parts of the United States”

    “and even LSD”! Oh. My. God. LSD, oh no! Oh wait…in the history of its existance this substance has not killed anyone.

    Why not educate yourself on these substances before you write a text like this that really makes you look pretty dumb.

    • So, let’s see: 11,406 sent to the hospital in 2010 by synthetic pot, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. Here’s what says: “According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there have not been any scientific studies conducted on synthetic pot’s effects on the brain; since the chemical composition of Spice is unknown, and it can be made up of a variety of compounds, the drug can cause dramatically different results than what the user may expect. Those users who have been taken to Poison Control Centers have exhibited the following symptoms: rapid heat rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, increase in blood pressure, and a decrease in blood flow to the heart, which has even resulted in a few heart attacks.”
      You look pretty silly and naive saying “There is no evidence that any of these substances are dangerous.” There is very little evidence that they aren’t dangerous. Why on earth would anyone want to use these substances?

      • AK

        First off Jay, you didn’t even respond to most of this man’s comment. You obviously cannot defend against the FACT that LSD is a completely safe substance. In fact, it has no known LD50 in humans.

        Second, why do we need proof that everything needs to be 100% safe under all circumstances? Of course people being irresponsible and stupid is going to have negative consequences. People die all the time from alcohol poisoning. Heck, people get ill and sent to the hospital from snorting Wellbutrin or taking Oxycontin. Should we ban these substances too? What about Nicotine, Jay?

        Also, this literally made me laugh out loud:
        “It’s also destroying all those myths that simply legalizing drugs like marijuana will sap the strength of cartels and gangs. There apparently is no end to the expanding list of mind-altering substances, each with the allure of either gaming law enforcement or providing a high that’s not available over the counter.”

        How does this prove that AT ALL? If marijuana, LSD, psilocin, etc were legal, people would not have to buy the alternatives you call dangerous, and wouldn’t require the cartels to supply them. Your logic is completely flawed.

    • Alexis

      If you had any experience with these changing chemicals you would most definitely not make the assumption that this way of skirting around changing laws is alright. Even when used responsibly you never know when the companies who produce these legal smoking products alter their ingredients. I smoked a small amount once and later while in the bank, attempting to cash my paycheck I couldn’t write my name. Literally could not write. And this is coming from someone who did these legal drugs to try and not do illegal drugs anymore. Legislation should be all inclusive on any chemical changes that could possibly be made to these “drugs”. people should definitely stick with tested and true substances, such as marijuana.

    • jes

      I completely agree with you. I can’t believe they would say there is a new formula for LSD, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There is only one formula for real LSD, synthetic chemicals which mimic the effects of LSD are not real LSD. How stupid are these people? I’m glad to see at least some people who actually have a brain, and use it.

  3. piouchr

    Why on earth would anyone want to use these substances ? There’s a simple explanation. Weed and LSD, that are physically harmless, are illegal.
    Spices and the new synthetic psychedelics drugs, that are very dangerous, are legal.
    People killed by these drugs are killed by prohibition.

    • David

      That’s exactly why people use those substances. Because of prohibition. I used to smoke a lot of cannabis before I went to jail. Afterwards, I decided to stop using it, primarily for legal reasons. This was about 3 and a half years ago.Then, I decided to try spice for a while, but it only vaguely resembled the feeling of cannabis, and I could tell what it was doing to me was harmful. In the end, I stopped using it when it was still highly available and legal. If both were legal today, I would be able to say that I would use cannabis regularly, but never spice.

  4. Phyllis Harris

    Whoever thinks this synthetic mess should be legal has lost their mind. My baby son (aged 20, but still my baby) is right now in restraints at the hospital because of this mess. He had been smoking this for a couple months thinking it was okay because it is sold legally at our neighborhood smoke shop. The past few days he has acted totally out of character. He was arrested in Pomona, Ca. last night because he was running in the streets naked (and he’s extremely modest)…he was arrested and released within an hour or so by the police back into the streets before I could drive the 30 minutes to pick him up to get him help. Therefore he was gone and we searched for over 3 hours and could not find him. We came home and I filed a missing person report with our local police department and within a couple hours the police called stating he had been RE-arrested for trying to break into someone’s home with no shirt on and the neighborhood had jumped him and tied him up and when they (the police) had arrived he had been banging his head into the asphalt, so he is now at the hospital in restraints. I begged the hospital staff to not release him until he was evaluated so he could get some help. This stuff is no joke and can cause serious harm to a person’s mind. I pray to God there is no irreversible damage done to my son. I will be one to sign or back-up anyone trying to squash this to prevent other kids and parents from going through this. Please pray for my child…

    • savannah

      Phyllis, I was just wondering how your son is now? My boyfriend is addicted to spice and it is killing us. He can’t quit and I have no idea how to help him…it’s like a heroine high for him..

  5. linday

    I have been an avid spice smoker for about 2 years now and as far as severe negative effects i have had none althoughiI have had rapid heart rate from certain brands of the spice. Is it possile that some people May not be effect as negatively as others? All the stories I have aheard about people having severe effects, al seem to have been smoking from a few days to a few months. None have a ready that have been over years.makes me think tha some people ar “immune” or just dont react as negatively

  6. joe d

    I was a spice smoker for three years and like your relationship mine was headed down the tubes. That stuff is extremely addictive and became the center of my world. I have been sober for almost a year and I listen to the stories my now fiancee tell me and man I am so grateful she was strong enough to stick with me. That stuff caused me to experience paranoia very rapid heart rate sleeping for days stop breathing while sleeping I know I had seizures but was lucky to have recovered without ever going to the hospital. How I quit was due to it becoming illegal where I stayed and me knowing that I was ruining my life. I thank God now that I was able to quit that stuff is nasty. I hope you are able to stay strong. Get him out of the same routine move somewhere where it is not easily accessibile. Throw away lighters and stuff that reminds him to smoke.

Leave a Reply to bill smith Cancel reply encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.