Is synthetic cannabis like Kronic, Spice and Kalma safe?

The basics about synthetic cannabis, what it is, how it works and why it should be avoided.

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about new ‘fake weed’, more formally known as synthetic cannabis, which is supposed to give users a similar high to smoking ‘real’ weed.

When these drugs first hit the market they weren’t illegal in Australia or able to be tested for in random drug tests. But since the launch of synthetic cannabis, a lot has changed – including an Australian Government crack-down on synthetic cannabis and a quick catch-up by drug testing agencies.

What is synthetic cannabis?

Synthetic cannabis products like Kronic, Spice, Karma, or Voodoo were, until recently, sold in adult stores and online as a legal alternative to ‘real’ cannabis. They are marketed as a blend of legal plants and herbs, but in fact, were sprayed with ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ or chemicals made in a lab that are designed to give the same ‘high’ as the THC in real cannabis. So in effect, synthetic cannabis is really just plants sprayed with chemicals.

How does synthetic cannabis work? 

Synthetic marijuana is used the same way as real cannabis – smoked in a joint, bong or pipe, or eaten in baked foods. It also works in much the same way – attaching to the same parts of the brain as THC does. Users describe the same sort of effects as real marijuana, however sometimes the ‘high’ is much stronger and more unpredictable due to the strength of the chemicals in synthetic marijuana.

How safe is synthetic cannabis?

The chemicals sprayed onto synthetic weed are often classified as ‘research chemicals’ and haven’t been approved for human consumption. The safety of synthetic weed is therefore questionable, with some much stronger than real weed, and tests showing that some products are laced with other chemicals. The exact side effects of all of these chemicals are unknown and unpredictable and almost nothing is known about any long-term damage they may cause. Like with any drug, people can react in different ways to synthetics, and some users have ended up in the emergency room.

What is the Australian law on synthetic cannabis?

Synthetic cannabis is illegal in Australia, in every state and territory.

Are there drug tests for synthetic cannabis?

More extensive drug tests that detect the presence of synthetic cannabis in saliva and urine are now available. Drug testing agencies continue to work hard to ensure testing keeps up with the changes made to synthetic drugs.

Fatal reactions to synthetic cannabis

There have been several deaths reported that may be associated with synthetic cannabis use. In the United States in 2014, a 19 year old teenage male passed away after consuming synthetic cannabis and experiencing swelling of his brain. In 2015, two men in Queensland died from suspected poisoning associated with use, and several others were admitted to hospital.

More information and stories about synthetic cannabis

Check out our synthetic cannabis page here.

If you’d like some more info on how cannabis can affect you, check out our other Marijuana Facts, our YouTube channel, follow us on Facebook, or take part in one of our competitions (with some good cash prizes up for grabs). If you think you or a friend might have a problem with cannabis and need help, check out our Get Help page or call the helpline on 1800 30 40 50. You can also get some more in-depth answers to all your cannabis questions on our factsheets page.

*Please note that the terms ‘marijuana’, ‘cannabis’, ‘weed’ and ‘pot’ are used interchangeably in these fast facts, and all refer to the illegal drug, cannabis, unless otherwise specified.