What is Spice/K2/Synthetic Marijuana and how is it making it into our prisons?

Synthetic marijuana, Spice, K2 or whatever you’d like to call it is just a mashup of chemicals which are sprayed on to dried plant material or paper and smoked to achieve a high.  So what’s the problem with that?  Many people would argue that marijuana serves medicinal purposes.  In fact, Massachusetts has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and has allowed medical use marijuana for people who have been approved to use it.


The problem is, this stuff is NOT marijuana, not even close.  In most countries around the world, including the United States, synthetic cannabis is illegal, Spice use is also banned for U.S. Military personnel.

So where does this stuff come from and how does it make it in to prisons?

There are some countries around the world where synthetic cannabinoids remain legal. This creates a multitude of problems for law enforcement in the U.S.

In 2013 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) took action and formally banned Synthetic Marijuana as a Class I drug, making its’ distribution a federal crime in the U.S.

At the time, the DEA action only covered a small number of chemicals, leaving manufacturers and sellers the legal wiggle room to sell different chemicals in their place. States are currently taking further action to limit the different iterations of the substance.

The manufacturers of synthetic cannabis work hard to stay one step ahead of the law and are continuously creating new compounds to sidestep federal regulations.

This also poses a significant problem for the prison system.  Since these substances can be sprayed on to virtually anything, it stands to reason that it could be sprayed on to letters that inmates receive, legal work, drawings that resemble those a child would send, etc.

In addition, even when an inmate is caught with spice laced items, the tests to detect the substance aren’t always reliable because the chemical compound is constantly being changed.  K2letter

As an agency, we are constantly adapting our methods of detection and ways to deter the substance from being introduced into our facilities.

We continue to fight the good fight in order to keep the staff and inmates safe, but the task is daunting due to the methods continuously changing.  DOC staff remain undeterred and ever vigilant.


CNN Report on Spice/K2/Synthetic Marijuana

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