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Spiked weed

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Spiked Marijuana Is A Health Concern Among Indian Consumers, Especially Students 4 min read

Last updated on November 6, 2019

Due to marijuana’s legal status, we still haven’t gotten an accurate picture of how pervasive the consumption of the plant really is. However, emerging data suggest that marijuana use is on the rise; ganja seizures and cultivation destruction are at an all-time high, and a recent AIIMS study has pointed out that India is currently seeing an increasing cannabis addiction problem.

But this increased illegal consumption has led to another harmful complication which often tends to go unnoticed and under-reported: spiked marijuana.

“Spiked” or laced marijuana is the marijuana end product mixed with other harmful substances such as cheap opiates, shoe polish, soap, laundry detergent, sugar cane juice, ink, glue, glass powder, and even rat poison (which is a common mixture). The incentives for mixing these components are simple: to increase weight in order to increase profits, to increase potency by adding cheap opiates and rat poison so that consumers naturally want more of the product, and to conceal the smell of marijuana to make it easier for covert transportation.

From dealers’ anecdotal observations, students and young professionals account for most of the marijuana consumption in the country. It is this demographic that is at greater risk to consume spiked marijuana.

Laced marijuana is not a rarity. In fact, it is mostly the common product. The New Indian Express reported that dealers say that adulterated weed is the most commonly sold maal [marijuana] in Bengaluru. Many students studying from both northern and southern institutions told us that getting the actual pure form of marijuana is “extremely rare” and that “you’d be lucky if you got one of them”.

These mixtures often do not act as deterrents for consumption because there are hardly any immediate health consequences to the person consuming it. “We’ve seen people consuming it and nothing has happened to them. It’s not like you’re going to die the next day”, an undergraduate student who consumes laced marijuana on a regular basis said.

According to students and other consumers who have consumed laced marijuana, these following points are indications of whether marijuana is spiked:

  • Excessive seeds in the product
  • Dark sticky residue on hands when crushed
  • Moldy smell
  • Unusually powdery
  • a “lifeless” high
  • Brown color an indication of aged marijuana

The long-term health implications of spiked marijuana remain unexplored due to marijuana’s legal status. Given that these mixtures don’t act as deterrents to consumption, thousands are left at the mercy of drug peddlers and underground drug cartels. Consumers are completely unaware of what they are putting in their bodies, opening up a huge public health concern.

The West can attest to this. K-2 or “Spice” is a lethal drug which is marketed as “synthetic marijuana”, albeit having nothing to do with marijuana or its compounds. It is derived from dried plant material sprayed with lab-made mind-altering substances and is heavily purchased by young consumers in the US. So much so that a CDC study found that nearly one in ten American teenagers had consumed synthetic marijuana at some point in their lives.

The effects of widespread of the drug? Massive increases in overdoses and subsequent hospitalizations. Spice use has also been implicated in kidneys and heart failures. CDC reports that some people have even died after consuming Spice.

It wouldn’t be hard for substances like Spice to make their way into India’s black markets, considering the structure of the market and the nature of demand for marijuana. The information asymmetry between the dealer and the consumer may lead to consumers being exploited with lethal substances. Highly potent and dangerous substances — along with the spiked marijuana variants — could easily be pushed to incautious customers.

Perhaps legalization and increased government oversight could help. Legally licensed markets could redirect consumers from the dangerous variants sold on the streets to more regulated, safer forms of marijuana. Or the answer could lie with increasing police forces to deal with drug peddlers and underground markets. Whatever the solution may be, the current structure of the black market and the nature of demand warrants quick action before it leads to further aggravation.

The MicroPoll we conducted on marijuana legalization saw significant support for legalization, and at the same time reservations for youth abuse if it were to be legalized.

"Spiked" or laced marijuana is the marijuana end product mixed with other harmful substances such as cheap opiates, shoe polish, soap, laundry detergent, sugar cane juice, ink, glue, glass powder, and even rat poison.