Americans now have unprecedented access to weed thanks to medical marijuana and decriminalization laws that have been popping up all across this great land. It's a wonderful time to want to be high. I can't even set foot in California without someone thrusting a pack of weed-laced Animal Crackers or Jolly Ranchers or something into my eager hands.
But here's the thing, I don't live in California. I live in South Dakota. Medical marijuana? We barely have buildings. I have family members who just started saying "epic fail." We have a law on the books that makes it legal to ride a horse home from the bar when you're drunk. That law was passed in 2007.
Law not applicable if the horse is also drunk, like this one.
What I'm saying is it takes a while for South Dakota to catch up. So there's no medical marijuana for me. If I want to smoke, I have two options. I can track down an actual weed dealer, which would require me to have friends which, in South Dakota, would require me to be really into hunting and NASCAR and being scared of gay people. Fuck that. Alternately, I can just head to the gas station.
I'm not sure people who live in normal places where weed is readily available even realize this, but you can totally buy something kind of resembling marijuana in gas stations and convenience stores all over the damn place. It's called K2 or Spice. It sort of looks like weed, sort of smells like alfalfa and sort of gets you terrifyingly high if you aren't careful. Listen, I don't care how fucking cool you might think it is that you can now buy drugs and fountain sodas in the same place, there are some very good reasons why I wouldn't recommend smoking gas station weed.
What you see in the above picture is two jars of synthetic marijuana I purchased at a liquor store that I still don't know the name of (also pictured: half a blurry banana I didn't crop out because this is a comedy site). They are 1 gram each. Total cost? $40. That's $20 for less than a dimebag, people. When you're talking 100 percent markup, eventually crack just starts to make more sense from an economic standpoint.
Also, sorry if high prices aren't terrifying enough for you, moneybags. Rest easy, there will be stuff for those of you who are thriving in this economy as well. I'm just saying, this shit is pricey.
The obscure chemical compound that blazed the path that leads to full-on adults like myself casually strolling into a beat-to-shit liquor store and saying, "I'll have one Zombie Matter, please" all while keeping a straight face was developed by a Clemson University chemist named John Huffman. He was conducting research on cannabinoids for the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The compound he came up with was called JWH-018, because JWH are Huffman's initials and he's clearly an egotistical prick.
You know what else he is? A buzzkill. Check out this quote: "These compounds were not meant for human consumption. 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."
Those sure as hell don't sound like Bob Marley lyrics, do they? Maybe that's a standard disclaimer for synthetic drugs developed by actual scientists as opposed to under-stimulated college freshman in cramped dorm rooms, but still, I've never seen it stamped on a sack of real weed like it is on the pretend stuff.
Classic. Just like scientists advised dad not to smoke in the '50s.
Since JWH-018 started making the rounds, reports have been popping up left and right about the health risks associated with synthetic marijuana. Like the three teens in Texas who showed up at a Dallas emergency room with heart attack symptoms, for example.
If teenage heart attacks don't rattle your cage, there's also the mother of two in Indiana who just straight up died.
Before you hit the comments to call that dead mom an asshole for tarnishing the otherwise harmless name of fake weed, read this. Trust, the guy who wrote that is pretty much making the same argument that you want to and he sounds scientific as fuck doing it. You probably won't. He eventually comes to the extremely long-winded conclusion that the mother in Indiana probably got a "bad batch" of K2 and, as a result, it killed her. Fantastic. Now show me the story about a mother of two who got her hands on a "bad batch" of actual marijuana and fucking died. The fact that a "bad batch" can even exist is really all there is to know about why synthetic marijuana and actual marijuana are not like each other at all. Eventually, JWH-018 was banned along with its chemical brother JWH-073. Strangely, that's when things got even more bizarre.
Chemical compounds that mimic THC work exactly like heroin dealers on The Wire, apparently. Take one off the streets and there's another one waiting to step in as an immediate replacement. When JWH-018 was officially outlawed in 2009, the Internet wasted no time in filling the void. This site, for example, had "second generation K2" available for sale before the ban even took effect (they also sent me free samples once, because I'm a "journalist"). Back when it was just JWH-018 that the feds had to contend with, you could at least be somewhat sure what you were smoking.
These days, the only thing resembling an ingredients list on a package of fake weed is a promise that it "contains no illegal substances." That's like looking at the nutrition info at Taco Bell and finding that it just says "no big rats." Great news, but not really enough information to base a decision on. But somehow, the fake weed of today still pretty much works as well as it did during the heyday of JWH and his brethren. So what is in the gas station weed you can still buy these days? I honestly don't know, but Googling "K2 and nail polish remover" provides plenty of results. That can't possibly be a good sign. Who knows what kind of Wild West style free-for-all you're inhaling at this point? Maybe outlawing JWH-018 was intended to make synthetic weed harder to get, but it didn't. You can buy the shit for cheap on eBay, even. The only difference now is that you really have no way of knowing what you're smoking. It's not JWH-018, and it sure as hell isn't actual marijuana. But whatever, you'll probably be fine.
I don't want to generalize here. I'm sure there are law enforcement officials all across the world who can differentiate gas station weed from the real stuff without so much as a second glance, but that doesn't mean everyone can. Allow me to get personal with you for a moment. A few years ago, I was preparing to walk to a liquor store near my apartment. Having just acquired some gas station weed of my own, I thought it might be pleasant to have a little smoke during my stroll. And then I stepped outside and it was like 38 degrees and I was all "fuck weather, I'm driving." Something about being able to buy fake weed at a convenience store instills one with a sense that, because what you're smoking is not technically illegal, anyone who might question why you're driving while smoking something with such a pungent aroma will just chalk it up to a lighthearted misunderstanding when they learn the truth. So, confident that I was acting within the letter of the law, I lit up and departed on what literally wasn't more than a one-minute drive.
You're welcome, America.
I pulled into the parking lot, rolled down my window and finished that smoke in the car, not a care in the world. Hell, I even gave a friendly wave to a dude in a Green Bay Packers jacket when he walked past my car and into the store. Pretend pot makes me super friendly, you see. Shortly thereafter, I flicked a fake weed roach off into the cold night and proceeded into the store to make my purchases.
Everything was going according to plan until I returned to my vehicle to leave. That's when a dark gray Nissan pulled up behind me, blocking me in. I turned, the look on my face clearly expressing the "what the motherfuck?" that was in my heart, and saw that same bastard in the Green Bay Packers jacket, this time with a friend, both flashing badges at me. And I was so friendly when we first met!
I guess I just assumed they all looked like this.
Badges are not fun, not when you're stone sober, and definitely not with a head full of fake drugs. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
Fucking Green Bay Packers Fan Cop: Mind telling me what you were smoking just now?
Me: Uhhhh ...
FGBPFC: I'm not stupid, it was weed. Nothing else smells like that.
Me: No! It's called K2! It's not even illegal.
Beady Eyed Other Cop (BEOC): Alcohol isn't illegal either, that doesn't mean you can drink it while you drive.
Me: Ah. Yeah.
BEOC: How about you call someone to give you a ride home?
Me: I think I'll walk.
Good news, I didn't get arrested. For being cops, those assholes were pretty cool about the whole affair. Walking home sucked though. Especially when I had to walk back 10 minutes later to get my car. Fuck the Packers.
Believe it or not, it was a computer password that finally put me off fake weed for good. Understand, I take passwords super fucking seriously. I very strongly believe that if you can't secure your computer, you shouldn't be allowed to own one. I'm not saying the passwords I come up with are any more immune to the Anonymouses (Anonymeese?) of the world, but shit, at least I try.
Take the password that's required to access my laptop, for example. It's long as all get out, has special characters and numbers and lowercase letters and uppercase letters and pizazz and personality and isn't related to anything that actually exists in my life. It's a thing of beauty. And typing it is almost a reflex for me at this point. I don't even have the thing written down anywhere. I just trust that I've been using it so long that I'll never forget it. And I never did, until about a month ago.
I had stepped outside to smoke and returned with plans on getting some writing done. I know, writers and drugs don't normally go together. I guess I'm a bit of a maverick (that's the same as cliche, right?). Anyway, I sat down, cracked open the laptop and ... nothing. That impenetrable fortress of a password was lost. Like I never even knew it. Like I normally keep it written on a Post-It Note affixed to my computer monitor (like every genius co-worker of mine back when I had a "real" job) and the cleaning lady accidentally threw it away. It was just gone.
Gone like your chances of ever making babies if you regularly sit like this.
The thing about gas station weed is that, in my own vast personal experience, it produces one of three distinct feelings:
1. Absolutely nothing
2. Absolute euphoria
3. Holy shit, I'm having a stroke
I've had that third feeling more times than I care to list, but it was always with the understanding somewhere in the back of my mind that I was actually just really high and it would pass in a few minutes. This wasn't like that. That password might as well be my name. That's how well I know it. And it was just gone. It felt like amnesia. I literally stared at the login screen of my laptop for 20 minutes, terrified, wondering when the part where I start slurring my speech and lose control of the left side of my body was going to kick in. This was it. I was all fucked up, and I had the distant memory of a password that used to be my best friend but had now abandoned me to prove it. It was not a good moment.
After about 45 minutes that felt like six hours, the password came to me. I logged back in and started working on this article. If that sounds absurd, wait until you hear the story that DIDN'T compel me to quit fucking with gas station weed.
Look, when you're dealing with me, you're dealing with a man who makes wonderful decisions. Nowhere is that more evident than in the things I choose to write about. Like the time I went to a Justin Bieber concert in the name of my "craft." Or the time I ate a plate of chicken wings called "Day Changers" that set my intestines on fire for the next four days (that was at a different site, you'd have to wade through a bunch of titties to find it). But no idea has ever topped the time I decided I was going to investigate Robotripping.
If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's slang for the effects produced when daffy teens down entire bottles of cough syrup. I heard it produced a hallucinogenic effect, kind of like PCP. Hey, that's the stuff that made Helen Hunt hilariously hurl herself and the alliteration she came with right the fuck through a window on an after school special in the '80s, right?
Why wouldn't I want to check that out? So, on a Saturday night (the optimum time for bad decisions) I downed 20 gelcaps of Robitussin and waited for the magic to happen. But it didn't. I felt a slight body buzz, but that was about it. I was disappointed. That's when a "friend" suggested I try it with weed. Well, I didn't have any weed. But I certainly had a jar of some shit that looked like weed. Good enough!
Fast forward to the following Saturday night. I repeat the 20 gelcap routine, this time with the added steps of smoking a bit of gas station weed and downing an additional 20 gelcaps. Like I said, top notch decision maker. Now, cue the impending disaster music.
The combination took about 15 minutes to fully kick in and, when it did, it was horrifying. I went from sitting on my couch watching Saturday Night Live to sitting on my couch being absolutely certain that I was now in Hell and, unsurprisingly, it looked a lot like watching Saturday Night Live alone on the couch. Not only was I for some reason sure I was in Hell, but I was sure that if I could just get upstairs, I'd be free. But there was a problem, my cats were at the top of the stairs specifically to make sure I couldn't leave.
These little angels.
That's the kind of thought process I was dealing with. The cats were having no part of me leaving. The hate in their eyes said so. I'm sure this is exactly how those stories about people who go crazy and eat their roommate's lungs in a drug-fueled haze happen. For me, it lasted all of about 10 minutes, but I promise you, it was not a joyous 10 minutes. And that was just the part where I thought my cats had doomed me to an eternity in Hell.
For the next few hours, I was the kind of dehydrated that makes you feel like you swallowed charcoal. I was thirsty like I'd never been in my life, but also way too disoriented to walk to the kitchen to do anything about it. Although not of the "I'm in Hell" variety anymore, those weird feelings that something truly awful had already happened would just up and return every 30 minutes or so. If a single other person had been in the room with me, I probably would have been hauled off to the hospital. A quick WebMD self-evaluation the next morning left me thinking that the likely culprit of my night in Hell was something resembling a (very thankfully) mild bout of Serotonin Syndrome, which WebMD defines as "man, you really should not have mixed those two chemicals; you're probably going to die."
This was well after the great JWH-018 ban of 2009, so I can't even be really sure what it was that I mixed with that Robitussin (or the active ingredient in Robitussin, which is dextromethorphan). Probably fucking nail polish remover. Whatever the case, the fact that I didn't swear off gas station weed THAT night is all I need to know about why I should leave it alone now.
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