I am wondering if using synthetic cannabinoids is a safe alternative to natural weed. Does fake weed affect the body the same? I’m wondering because it seems to be less expensive. – Thanks, Shawn K.

By Eloise Theisen | Last updated: February 14, 2022

synthetic cannabis

It is an important one as most people do not know the difference between synthetic cannabinoids and plant-based cannabinoids. The quick answer is no, synthetic cannabinoids are not a safer alternative to the plant.

While it may be cheaper, there are serious side effects that could be detrimental to your health.

Cannabinoid chemistry goes back to the late 1800s. As chemists started to identify cannabinoids, they also began synthesizing them. Roger Adams, a chemist, was the first to isolate and synthesize a cannabinoid. By 1940, he had published a method for converting CBD to THC and in 1949, he had a catalog of THC analogs which were the first artificial cannabinoids. Synthesis of cannabinoids continued and in the mid-1970s, Eli Lilly and Co. developed nabilone, a synthetic 1 mg THC capsule. By 1985, the FDA approved dronabinol, another synthetic THC capsule, for the use of HIV/AIDS related nausea and vomiting and severe weight loss.

Synthetic cannabinoids continue to be produced, mostly for research purposes.

However, you can find products like K2, Scooby Doo, and Spice through the illicit market. These products have been referred to as synthetic marijuana which is not true. They are synthetic THC and they have allowed users to avoid legal consequences associated with cannabis use and to pass a drug test.

Plant-based THC is a partial agonist at the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which means it does not activate the receptors to the fullest extent. Synthetic THC is a full agonist at CB1 and CB2. When the receptors are fully activated, it can cause serious side effects such as agitation, coma, toxic psychosis, cardiovascular problems, respiratory depression, acute kidney injury, addiction, and even death.

Phytocannabinoids have not been shown to have the same serious side effects as synthetic cannabinoids and are much safer.

The risk of using synthetic cannabinoids far outweighs any benefit. Even though synthetic cannabinoids may be easier and cheaper to obtain, the health risks associated with them can be costly and even deadly. It is always best to obtain your cannabis from a regulated supplier that is required to test for potency, mycotoxins, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals to ensure its purity and safety.

Share this Q&A

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter


Health Cannabinoids

Written by Eloise Theisen | Nurse Practitioner, Founder of Radicle Health

Profile Picture of Eloise Theisen

Eloise Theisen, AGPCNP-BC, is a dedicated and patient-focused nurse. For over 17 years, she has specialized in aging, cancer, chronic pain, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and various autoimmune and neurological diseases. The founder of Radicle Health, she started her career at John Muir Medical Center caring for patients suffering from cancer, terminal illnesses, respiratory failure/complaints, drug overdoses, acute alcohol ingestion, gastrointestinal bleeds, traumatic brain injury, and multiple traumas.

More Q&As from our experts

Related Articles

Term of the Day

Seed Saving

In gardening and agriculture, seed saving refers to the practice of saving various types of reproductive material and seeds...
Read Full Term

Don't Miss the Latest News From Maximum Yield!

Stay on top of new content from Join our email newsletter and get the latest grow tips in your inbox every week.

Go back to top
Maximum Yield Logo

You must be 19 years of age or older to enter this site.

Please confirm your date of birth:

This feature requires cookies to be enabled