Yesterday, after tabloid pressure, New York State banned sales of synthetic weed. But before that could happen your hardworking Gothamist editors got ahold of a few packages of the bowel-wrecking "drug" for a blind taste test so we all might get a better idea of what all the fuss is about. The things we do for you!
For our highly scientific study we bought three packages of synthetic marijuana—two, "Power Diesel" and "Dead Man," from a store in Bushwick and one, "Strawberry Funky Monkey XXXX," from a shop off St. Mark's—we also obtained a bit of non-synthetic marijuana for comparison sake. We tried to get some of the "big names" in the field but nobody seemed to have "K2" or "Spice" stocked.
Before we go any further, however, let's be VERY clear: All of the products that we bought clearly say on their packaging that they are "NOT for human consumption" and as such we do NOT recommend you try this at home. Everyone partaking in this study was a highly trained professional with years of field experience. Okay, with that out of the way, let's spark up!
How We Rolled
To maintain the integrity of the test, we took each of the samples out of their packaging and had a trusty advisor keep track of which was which. Each sample was then examined for its appearance and smell (technically these things are "incense") before being rolled into a "joint." Each of those synthetic marijuana cigarettes (along with one real one) were then smoked for at least three puffs by three hard working bloggers.
If you are looking to buy synthetic weed for its intended purpose we strongly suggest you don't. Unsmoked, none of the samples we purchased smelled particularly pleasant and they got worse lit up. Dead Man and Power Diesel, in particular, both have the slightly sickly smell of cheap potpourri your grandmother might pick up at Kmart. The only one that was even close to acceptable was the strawberry Funky Monkey which, while still smelling awful, at least has a fake strawberry scent going for it.
Y'know the acrid smell of burnt stem? When burnt they smelled like that. But again, the strawberry came out on top. If you were a young kid trying to get high while persuading your parents you'd just gotten really into incense, you could conceivably smoke this stuff and pass off the smell. The actual marijuana, meanwhile, smelled very strongly of, well, pot (you could smell it through a backpack) and when smoked produced an odor familiar to friends of Mary Jane the world over.
The three fakes looked pretty similar. Like oregano and other spices mixed together. As you can see in the photos the two non-flavored products were a light green color speckled with stems and seeds while the strawberry flavored one had a browner color and appeared to have more stuff in it. Despite looking dried out, however, all three were surprisingly supple to the touch, making them harder to break up finely than the actual marijuana. Who knew that spraying chemicals on plants might keep them from drying out!
And then we got to the real point of this exercise. Yes, ma'am, we smoked the stuff. And we won't be doing that again.
Of the three the clear "winner" was the strawberry one, only because its heavily chemical "flavoring" masked the dryness of the actual product. It was like smoking strawberry-flavored hashish without the hashish. It smoked smoothly with a lightly-flavored taste (though, like its peers, it had a chemical burny aftertaste). In terms of the "high" it produced, it wasn't much but it was there. Sort of a back-of-the-eyes, light headedness along with drymouth. One participant said their "cheeks feel rosy, eyes 'tickley.'" After that though we were left with a harsh aftertaste of sticks and dirt on the tongue.
The other two samples elicited similar, if less positive, responses. Dead Man reminded one taster of Catholic incense ("want to flashback to your repressed childhood religious experiences? Try this!") with, another person pointed out, a slight "apple" flavor up front. And Power Diesel's chemical flavor seemed to be the least appetizing to our testers ("tiny bit of bleach/chemical taste to it," "dirty menthol"). Of the three the Power Diesel also burned the strangest, twice making crackling and popping noises while being smoked.
The real weed, meanwhile, tasted like weed, burned evenly like weed, had no chemical flavors and did exactly what we expected it to.
Fake weed looks, tastes and smokes like the cheap crap you might buy from a guy on a bike in Washington Square Park or the stuff your tried that one time in eighth grade. Which helps explain its apparent popularity with kids. It doesn't look like much, smells worse and smokes poorly. But it does give the smoker a slight high, akin to the one you had that one time in middle school. An eye high, if you will, that fades fast. In our tests we experienced none of the symptoms that the New York State Department of Health is so worried about. No heart palpitations, no confusion or seizures. Just a light high.
So then the question is: Would we smoke the stuff again? On its own, no. But maybe as filler for a blunt at a party when our stash is low. Should it be illegal? While far deadlier drugs like tobacco are still legal, we can't really see why. We'd much rather smoke the real stuff though!