The Interesting Lack of Info on How Synthetic Cannabinoids Are Made

We hear warnings all the time for these compounds, usually labeled ‘K2’ or ‘spice’, and how dangerous they are; despite a lack of actual deaths directly related to them. But the most interesting part of these warnings, is that they come with no information. If you want to know how synthetic cannabinoids are made, where, or by who, it’s as if the information doesn’t exist, even with our wide-ranging internet. What does this all mean?

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What are synthetic cannabinoids?

These days there are three types. Two get a bad rap, despite not being that bad, and one gets pushed directly at consumers. A real cannabinoid is something like THC, CBD, or CBN which is naturally made by the cannabis plant, and can be extracted in its natural form, without any change to the compound.

A synthetic cannabinoid is a cannabinoid that is made using processing techniques that either change the original molecule, or create a molecule by using component parts, and synthesizing them together with synthetic processes. Therefore, a synthetic cannabinoid is either a direct replica of a real cannabinoid, just made synthetically (like delta-8 THC), or it’s a compound that doesn’t exist in nature, and is simply closely-related to the natural cannabinoids – like delta-10 THC. Synthetic or not, some synthetic compounds mirror compounds found in nature, while some don’t exist in nature at all.

One of the big debates in this industry, is whether these compounds fit under the definition of hemp, a definition that doesn’t allow for synthetic processing of compounds. There are also issues of too-high THC amounts in preparations, as well as additive chemicals. The latter issue has shown to be the actual problem in cannabinoid-related deaths. Something even stated by a recent UK report, though this was about vapes specifically, not synthetic cannabis. As the two fear campaigns for vapes and synthetic cannabinoids are similar, its still interesting to note.

Cannabinoids can be natural or synthetic

The 3 kinds of synthetic cannabinoids we deal with

What are the three types we deal with today? Technically they could all be lumped together, but essentially they make up three different industries. The first has to do with what’s referred to as the cannabinoid market. The biggest products in this market are delta-8 THC and HHC. Though the compounds are sold under the term ‘hemp-derived’, meaning they came from the hemp plant, this doesn’t mean they’re not synthetic.

As only CBD exists in high enough quantities for direct extraction from hemp (in amounts usable for product manufacturing), these compounds are not directly extracted, but made through processing from CBD. Or through some other process not made clear. Whether they are technically legal or not, they are openly sold all throughout the US in stores. How many direct deaths have they caused? None.

The second type is considered downright illegal cannabinoids, and they’re the main reference point when bringing up ‘synthetic cannabis’. These compounds are nicknamed ‘spice’ and ‘K2’, and the reality is that we don’t know much about them. It’s often said that the main chemical constituent is a compound called cannabicyclohexanol (aka (C8)-CP 47,497), or rather, a derivative of it called CP 47,497. The interesting thing about this compound, is that its related to HHC, which was actually discovered by the US government in an attempt to make a watered down version of THC.

We are constantly warned about these drugs. Sometimes we’re told they’re super strong and can therefore cause a bad reaction, sometimes we’re told they’re poisonous. But, are they? Usually, synthetic weed comes as broken up foliage with something sprayed on it. I, myself, once got very sick from fake weed, a story detailed here. But the reaction was so isolated (smoked it a million times, this happened only once), that blaming it on the compound that got me high, is silly. However, if I had died, it would’ve been blamed on the synthetic THC, no doubt.

Thing is, when a drug is sprayed on random foliage, the foliage could have anything on it from rat poison to insecticide; and breathing in chemicals of this nature, can be deadly. It seems no one died directly from the synthetic cannabinoids, but rather from other additives or chemicals used to make the product. The synthetic cannabinoids are directly related to THC, and as of yet, none of the researched cannabinoids – synthetic or not – have ever been associated with causing such problems. They might not have been taken up by the government, but the research around them never showed a deathly issue.

The last type of synthetic cannabinoid? The one sold directly to us. That involves approved pharmaceutical medications like dronabinol and nabilone. Yup, we’re told to fear cannabis synthetics, right alongside being told that if we buy them from a pharmaceutical company, somehow the danger disappears.  Pharmaceutical companies are not in the business of providing non-synthetic medications by default, because they can’t.

Synthetic cannabinoids
Synthetic cannabinoids

Their legal inability to patent a plant dictates that they must create synthetics if they want to use similar compounds. So automatically, these companies are making the same things as the cannabinoid market sells, yet we’re told its totally cool.

These, of course, aren’t any more or less dangerous than any of the other cannabinoid compounds, whether synthetic or not. But they do create a logical discrepancy. It’s not advertised to us that these medications are synthetics, but they are. Just as much as the compounds we’re constantly warned away from. Which means the government, even without legalizing cannabis for medical use, allows the sale of synthetic cannabinoid medicines, while telling the public that synthetic cannabinoids are dangerous.

Okay, so how are synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and spice made?

And this is where it really gets interesting. I want everyone reading this to open an internet browser page, and type in any of the following terms: “how is K2 made”, “how is spice cannabinoid made”, or “K2 recipe”. Seriously, go for it. You’ll find what I did. Tons of fear articles, tons of explanations of how its sprayed on foliage, and tons of stories of injury, sometimes without explaining the idea of additives and other chemicals involved, yet never explaining how exactly the cannabinoids caused the death either.

What you fundamentally won’t find, is how these synthetic cannabinoids are made, where they’re made, or by who. A search of Tic Tok videos turned up some videos of wetting paper in chemicals, which still doesn’t help us at all. And this paper by EMCDDA, which gives about the most detail possible in terms of the compounds, still falls short of explaining how they’re actually made, only giving a few thoughts on it. However, what it does do, is say nothing bad about these compounds, likening them for the most part, to THC. It doesn’t even have a section on danger.

If you’re thinking that this information is never provided for illicit drug markets, you’re wrong. Go back to the browser page. Now search these terms: “meth recipe”, “crack recipe”, and “fentanyl recipe”. You’re going to find plenty of information, even if you specifically don’t have the skills to make them. Sure, it can involve high level chemistry, but the point, is that the information is there. You can also find plenty of information about where these drugs are illegally made, and by who. So easy, that I was able to give a little overview here, in an article about making delta-8 THC, because even that has instructions online.

We have the internet, guys. Even if no step-by-step process is given for making fentanyl, you can gather so much information, that this can be gleaned by those who understand the science. The information is there. And meth? Meth actually kills about 19,447 people a year according to 2020 data.

How meth is made
How meth is made

And yet finding instructions for it…super easy. When it comes to how to make synthetic cannabinoids, where this is done, and with what methods, it’s like all of a sudden, an internet blackout. So we’re told of this danger repeatedly, yet given no backup information for what the stuff really is. To the point that it must be questioned if any of the information we’re given, is correct.

Maybe it’s made by the government and put out on the street. Maybe its fully known that approved or not, there’s no danger. Maybe it’s just used as a fear campaign to drive people toward pharmaceutical options which we’re told are safer, even though they’re essentially the same thing. Let’s not forget how many FDA approved medications consistently must be recalled due to safety issues. And this after passing safety trials, which doesn’t say much for our drug approval process, or the safety of what’s on the market.

If not one death has come directly from these compounds, and just from additives, or other chemicals involved, then any of these removed FDA medications, are way worse than spice or K2 could ever be. Its way easier to scare someone off something, if you control all the information about it. With not one word online about how the stuff is made, the only thing we have, are government fear campaigns telling us of addictions, poisonings, and lack of medical benefit.


How are synthetic cannabinoids made? Well, unlike drugs like meth and crack, the internet doesn’t have a recipe. Or information about who is making it. Or where. It’s kind of like there’s a story out that’s being pushed on us, but all real information is withheld.

I want to take a minute to say that I don’t love this industry. I doubt there’s a problem with any synthetic cannabinoid thus far. But I do understand the detriments of added chemicals, and for this reason, this industry can be dangerous. How dangerous? People have certainly died. However, on its very worst day, it’s not even in the same danger ballpark, realm, or universe, as opioids, meth, benzodiazepines, or cocaine. Two of these are highly prescribed, one is still legal medically, and one is completely illegal, but anyone can find instructions to make it. Just something to keep in mind.

Also, I’ve repeated over and over that no deaths have come directly from a cannabinoid compound, whether natural or synthetic. This is based on no articles being able to specify that the cannabinoid compound was responsible, with the majority actually mentioning the other chemicals involved that did the poisoning. This is highlighted by the CDC itself, which has a page on lung injury from vapes, where it admits that its an additive issue, and literally can’t say that injury came from either tobacco or cannabis directly.

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Austria Imports Record Amount of Medical Weed While Constitutional Challenges Loom

Austria is in an interesting position when it comes to the legalization of cannabis right now. The third country in the DACH alliance in Europe (which also consists of Germany and Switzerland) currently has no legislative path to recreational cannabis reform, even though its two trade partners are pushing the boundaries of the discussion in the E.U.

That said, sales of dronabinol are up, year over year in the country, although none of it is produced domestically. The Austrian Agency for Food and Health (AGES) grows several hundred kilos of medical cannabis flower a year, though all of this is exported—the majority of which has historically crossed the border into Germany—to be made into dronabinol then re-imported.

So far, while the medical market here is smaller than the German one, and there is more limited cultivation and no extraction, there are some unfortunate similarities. Namely that patients are facing multiple challenges to obtaining insurance reimbursement. The quickest guaranteed path in Germany is also to sue at present, which given the backlog of legal cases, is just another excuse for more gridlock and delay.

In Austria, there is a move afoot to skip all of this and just go straight to recreational legalization, even if not via the legislature but by legal challenge.

The State of Cannabis Reform in Austria

Austrians are not allowed to consume, buy, sell, or grow cannabis (except if not allowed to bloom). That said since 2016, possession of small quantities of the flower have effectively been decriminalized, with punishment in the form of fines about the same amount as a parking violation.

However, like other countries which have repeatedly stalled on reform, the issue is moving forward in the courts.

A Supreme Court Challenge May Change the Game

There is a potential game-changing case now pending at the country’s Constitutional Court which is evaluating a private petition brought by a 26 year old man, Paul Burger, in Vienna. He was caught with a half-burned joint by two undercover police officers in 2020. Along with a power lawyer, Dr. Helmut Graupner, a known advocate for civil rights, he stands a good chance of winning his case. Burger also successfully challenged the country’s same-sex marriage ban.

Austria’s highest court must now evaluate whether the country’s Narcotics Drugs Act is constitutional. The argument before the court, similar to arguments put before the Mexican Supreme Court, is that personal consumption that does not harm others should be protected by the right to privacy and self-determination. The argument is also similar to the one behind the legalization of assisted suicide, which has now been allowed in Austria since earlier this year.

Odd Man Out or Potential Market Leader?

The constitutionality of personal access, possession, and cultivation is an issue that has floated through the legalization debate in Europe—but not so far in such a direct way as in the North American context (see both Canada and Mexico). A legal challenge by Albert Tio in Spain over the access discussion when it came specifically to the clubs was refused by the European Court of Human Rights last year.

Prior to 2017, in Germany, it was clearly patients’ legal challenges which changed the game, but as soon as patients began to win on a legal front, the Bundestag issued a new law. Namely one that mandated that patients could not grow their own—they had to obtain the drug through a doctor’s prescription via a pharmacy, and, as long as the patient’s condition could not be treated with other drugs, insurers were required to reimburse.

That model has largely failed, which is also the reason that the German government is now on track to pass legalization measures by the end of the year. Given the fact that the Austrian case is supposed to be decided right around the same time, it could mean that at least in the German speaking parts of the region, this becomes a legal and legislative precedent which finally formalizes recreational cannabis reform not only in the DACH countries, but the rest of Europe.

The post Austria Imports Record Amount of Medical Weed While Constitutional Challenges Loom appeared first on High Times.

Is Synthetic THC the Same as Natural THC?

There’s a lot of talk about synthetics in the cannabis industry, and for good reason, there are a bunch. But, what exactly does this mean? And why are we sometimes told synthetics are bad, and other times told they’re the only thing we should use? And how close is something like synthetic THC to its natural THC counterpart? The world of synthetics can be a confusing place, let’s take a look.

Synthetic THC can be perfectly fine, just ask the government about dronabinol the next time it tells you synthetics are categorically bad! We cover everything in the cannabis and psychedelics industry, and work everyday to get you the best stories out there. Check out the THC Weekly Newsletter to stay in-the-loop on what’s going on, and to get special access to deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and more! We’ve also got great offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC, which won’t leave a hole in your pocket. Take a look at our “Best-of” lists to find them, and enjoy responsibly!

What’s a synthetic?

First off, whether you promote them or are scared of them, the definition of a synthetic is the same either way. A synthetic drug is something that’s put together by a human using component parts, rather than being built by nature. A synthetic can’t grow in the ground, but something that does grow in the ground, can have a synthetic version of itself made. In a laboratory, the same compounds that make up the natural one, can be put together using different processes.

Are these processes safe? Sometimes, sure. But sometimes not as much, or with caveats that require chemicals to be used that can interfere with the final product. In essence, a synthetic version of something like THC is meant to be an identical version of natural THC. But that identical version might be tainted by chemical residue.

And then there are synthetic drugs that aren’t made to replicate anything that exists in nature. Some are just drugs created in a lab, like LSD, which though based off the ergot fungus, is its own compound, which isn’t a replication of anything. Or delta-10, which is very similar to delta-9, but which is only created in a lab. They are not exact replicas of something existent, meaning they only show up as synthetic drugs. Big Pharma also provides synthetic THC medications like Marinol/Syndros (AKA dronabinol) and Cesamet (AKA nabilone). While nabilone is said to be based on THC, but not identical, dronabinol is a direct replica of THC, with the exact same chemical formula and makeup.

So the only versions of marijuana with any approval, are strictly synthetics, yet we are constantly told that synthetics are dangerous. And generally, when being told they’re dangerous, the pharma options are left out, and the drugs that get designated as synthetics are Spice, K2, and fake cannabinoids, which are put in a grouping with bath salts and methamphetamine, rather than with dronabinol, nabilone, or any opioid on the market.

Yup the entire opioids industry is all synthetic. The government isn’t handing out poppy flowers for people to smoke, they’re putting them on synthetic versions of opiates like hydrocodone and fentanyl. In fact, every pharma product is a synthetic, since plants can’t be patented, and would never end up in a pharmaceutical product. Kind of takes the air out of the argument against synthetics, when the argument comes from the medical industry and government, which together provide for synthetics only.

Is synthetic THC a big thing?

Yes, synthetic THC is widely used. Partly as a pharmaceutical drug through the use of dronabinol (and similar drugs like nabilone), partly because in some places there isn’t access to regular cannabis because of local government bans, partly because even when real cannabis is available in some places, its not as cost-effective as synthetic products, and partly because there’s a widely used black market that uses cheaper synthetics in products like vape carts and edibles, and often sells them out of fake dispensaries.

There was a time when I was abroad when all I could get was synthetic weed. It didn’t look like weed, but rather, like a handful of something picked up off the ground. Which I imagine had something sprayed on it. Most of the time it was perfectly fine, but a couple times I get very sick, which ended my use of fake weed. Do I blame this on whatever synthetic compound was in it? No, I think it was more likely related to random vegetation being used, which could have been fertilized, or have rat poison in it, or something else liable to make me sick.

Obviously, we all love THC, it’s the driving force behind weed. The first pharma cannabis product to come out, dronabinol, is synthetic THC, and this is because it’s understood that there is a strong and valid medical value. So regardless of whether its being used to induce the appetite of a cancer patient going through chemo, or used to make yourself super high after a long day, it’s a sought after compound, which explains the consistency of the weed industry, despite constant efforts to thwart it with regulation and smear campaigns.

What about the cannabinoids industry?

The cannabinoids industry is a great example of the popularity of synthetic THC products. The cannabinoids industry is a fringe, but currently stable, part of the cannabis industry that relies entirely on synthetics, both of already existent compounds, and of compounds that don’t exist in nature. Take delta-8 THC, for example. Delta-8 THC exists as a natural compound, but though it can be sourced directly from the plant, it’s available in tiny amounts only, which is not enough for production. Therefore, any delta-8 product you see, is synthetically made by converting either delta-9 or CBD to delta-8.


Delta-8 THC is therefore like dronabinol. They are both the same as what occurs in nature, but made in a lab, which requires the use of chemicals to force the conversion. However, in the delta-8 industry, the lack of regulation means that a consumer isn’t necessarily going to get what they think they are. So though the delta-8 sold is said to be ‘hemp-derived’, or ‘naturally-derived’, its actually synthetic, and since none of the companies producing it are regulated, its also not necessarily delta-8 at all. And that’s a problem.

This is true of the other cannabinoids as well, like CBG, HHC, THC-O, delta-10, and so on. Whether naturally occurring or not, they are only sold synthetically, even though they are said to be hemp-derived. Delta-9 is also being sold as hemp-derived, as a means of getting around regulation, when in reality, just means synthetic delta-9. What else is synthetic delta-9? Dronabinol! What gives dronabinol a leg up? It’s sure to be what it’s supposed to be, whereas cannabinoids sold in the cannabinoids market, have no such guarantee.

Are synthetics dangerous?

This is an interesting question, because if you want a sweeping answer of ‘yes’, then the government and big pharma are pushing dangerous medications. If you want a sweeping answer of ‘no’, then it validates what is actually a very dirty industry. Far as I can tell, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

The cannabinoids industry is dirty and disgusting, down to fake labs to give fake results to encourage trust among consumers. When people get sick from vape cartridges, it tends to be from something added in. And that’s one of the big problems with an unregulated market. Add in unsafe chemicals used for flavoring, coloring, stabilizing, or simply to create a stronger drug, and people can definitely get hurt. Just like when I smoked the fake weed that made me sick. It probably wasn’t the synthetic chemical meant to make me high that made me sick, but something bad added in there.

The two main issues that I see with synthetics industries, are 1) added chemicals that can make people sick, and 2) chemicals used in processing that might not be eradicated by the end, making for a tainted product. The positive of the government sanctioned options, is that they should at least be clean of added chemicals, though this says nothing for processing techniques.

Plus, if we decide the synthetics made by Big Pharma are totally cool, then there would be no reason not to allow the plant itself, since these synthetics are identical to, or closely based off, the plant. In fact, the biggest different between the regulated synthetics industry (Big Pharma) and the unregulated synthetics industry (delta-8 sellers etc..), is that one is government approved, and one is not. So one goes by regulation, and one does not. One gets taxed as a cannabis product, and one does not.

synthetic THC

Recent news of Shopify banning the sale of unregulated cannabinoids looks to be the first major effort of the US government to thwart the industry. And considering how filthy it is, with fake products that don’t meet description, this isn’t necessarily bad. Realistically, most of us still have access to the plant, so we shouldn’t need synthetics anyway.

As far as answering the question of whether synthetics are dangerous, it really depends on who you ask. Cannabinoid sellers lie about their products being ‘naturally-derived’, which means they’re trying to avoid saying that what they’re selling is synthetic. Companies that outright lie are dangerous to begin with, and its hard to trust that their products are safe. On the other hand, the government loves spreading the line that synthetics are dangerous, while at the very same time promoting them through Big Pharma. So neither side is being particularly helpful in proving a point. It seems to me that the synthetics themselves aren’t necessarily bad, but that the industry around them, or the production techniques to make them, can lead to dirty products.

I find France vs the EU as a great story to highlight just how far governments will go to ban a natural product while selling a synthetic version of it. France lost because it couldn’t show the EU’s highest court how CBD was dangerous, which is probably because if it had tried to make that argument, the same argument could have been used against the country for selling the pharma version Epidiolex. France lost, making natural CBD legal all throughout the EU. If it had won, it would have barred the import of natural CBD from other EU countries, while selling the synthetic version, Epidiolex, in France.


I’ve used plenty of synthetic THC in life without dying, and so have many other consumers. Realistically, barely any of us have had an issue. This does nothing to abate safety concerns related to unwanted chemicals, or effects, but it does imply that there generally shouldn’t be a problem. It should always be remembered that there are two parts to this industry, a regulated one and an unregulated one. And whatever is said about safety, is generally guided by which market it’s a part of. That something like bath salts would be considered in any way similar to something like delta-8 THC, is a great reminder of how much information is skewed for consumers.

So just remember the next time the government tells you all synthetics are bad, that the government only approves synthetic medications! Perhaps we’d all be doing a bit better if the government saw fit to hand out poppies rather than fentanyl. In fact, opioids are a great place to see the idea of synthetic vs real, because no one seems to die from poppies, whereas 60,000+ die a year from overdoses on synthetic opioids, with that number on an upward trajectory. The government tends to say what’s convenient at the time to make tax money. If it really wanted to rule out synthetic cannabis, it would be ruling out Big Pharma as well.

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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

The post Is Synthetic THC the Same as Natural THC? appeared first on CBD Testers.

Artificial High – The History of Cannabis Synthetics

The idea that cannabis exists as a pharmaceutical product, is still strange to people like me who grew up with the plant as the only form of ingestion. Whereas some medications have no natural counterpart, like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Benadryl (diphenhydramine), some do, like anything based off cannabis. And we know the plant itself works fine, but that hasn’t stopped an immense amount of research into synthetic cannabis, and the production of synthetic cannabis products. Here we’ll take a look at the history of cannabis synthetics, and what can be expected in the future.

The history of cannabis synthetics is important because it’s a large part of today’s current market, including products like delta-8 THC. Though delta-8 is naturally occurring, it does require human synthetization help to provide large quantities, which means the dealt-8 we use in products, is all synthetic. We’re into quality cannabis products, whether naturally occurring or synthetic, and have a nice selection of delta-8 THC, delta 10 THCTHCVTHC-OHHC, THCP and even legal hemp-derived Delta-9 THC products. Subscribe to the Delta 8 Weekly and check ’em out!

What is a synthetic?

First things first, when talking about the history of cannabis synthetics, or simply what the synthetic version of something is, it’s best to know what we’re talking about. According, the definition of ‘synthetic’ encompasses several principals. Under adjective, the definitions that relate to cannabis are:

  • Of, pertaining to, proceeding by, or involving synthesis (opposed to analytic).
  • Noting or pertaining to compounds formed through a chemical process by human agency, as opposed to those of natural origin: synthetic vitamins; synthetic fiber.
  • Not real or genuine; artificial; feigned: a synthetic chuckle at a poor joke.

Under noun, the following relates to cannabis:

  • Something made by a synthetic, or chemical, process.
  • Substances or products made by chemical synthesis, as plastics or artificial fibers.
  • The science or industry concerned with such products.

A synthetic is something that was created, rather than occurring naturally, although this not does negate that a naturally-occurring compound can also come as a synthetic. A synthetic is something that is not real or genuine, but is instead artificial. Synthetics are made through a process, and studying synthetics, means studying the process of making artificial products. Thus, synthetic cannabis compounds, are compounds that do not exist in nature on their own (or which do, but still require synthetization help outside of nature for products), and are manufactured by human production. This can relate to much more than just cannabis. For example, a lot of clothing uses synthetic plastic fibers rather than natural ones like cotton or hemp.

Have You Tried The New High-Potency THCP Vape Cartridges?

Main points of cannabis research

When talking about the history of cannabis research in general, two of the occurrences that stand out the most are related to the isolation of certain compounds: the two main compounds of the cannabis plant. By isolating a compound, researchers can understand what it is, how it’s made, and are then able to synthesize it, and modify it. The two most spoken about findings in cannabis history are these:

1940 – The funny thing about the solation of CBD, is that it gets way less attention than the isolation of delta-9 THC, even as the current CBD industry booms. In fact, the name Doctor Roger Adams is way less known than Raphael Mechoulam, the guy up next. However, back in 1940, Roger Adams and his team at the University of Illinois, were the first to isolate CBD. In 1940, the team published their findings here: Structure of Cannabidiol, a Product Isolated from the Marihuana Extract of Minnesota Wild Hemp. It should be noted, that while Adams was not the first one to synthesize delta-9 completely, he was the first one to identify it, and he did do a partial synthesis.

1964 – Doctor Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli researcher from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, isolated delta-9 THC for the first time in 1964. Mechoulam and team published their findings here: Isolation, Structure, and Partial Synthesis of an Active Constituent of Hashish. Since this time, Mechoulam has been a leader in the industry, actively taking part in research, and even discovering this synthetic cannabinoid in 2020, called HB 580, or cannabidiolic acid methyl ester. And this at the ripe old age of 90. Mechoulam is still the president of The Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Tons of other research has been done into different compounds within the cannabis plant, its history of use, and how it can be used today. But somehow, the isolation of these two main cannabinoids stands out as beacons in the history of cannabis research. And it’s through the finding of these compounds, that the history of cannabis synthetics began.

History of cannabis synthetics

If you’ll notice from the publication put out by Mechoulam and team in 1964, in the title it directly states that not only did they identify delta-9 THC, but they did a partial synthesis of the compound. What does this mean if delta-9 does appear in nature? It means, the researchers were able to isolate and map the compound, and that they then attempted to re-create it themselves, without help from nature. The ‘isolation’ is the part where the single molecule can be taken and studied, its chemical formula identified, and its chemical structure mapped. The ‘synthesis’ part is when the same molecule is created through human production. This might make it seem like the history of cannabis synthetics started here, but once again, it was really the other guy.

The thing about Roger Adams, is that he didn’t just isolate CBD, he isolated CBN (cannabinol), identified delta-9 THC as well, and was able to show the relationship between CBD, CBN and delta-9, as the three are isomers to each other. Not only that, he was able to synthesize analogues of CBN and delta-9, meaning he was able to create artificial versions of these cannabinoid analogues. He wasn’t, however, the only one doing this at that time!


Enter Doctor Alexander Todd, the British researcher who was neck and neck with Roger Adams, and who received a Nobel prize for his work with nucleotides. In 1940, while at the University of Manchester, at the age of only 32, and working with a very small research group, Todd was able to isolate CBD from a sample of hashish from India. He published his findings in the journal Nature in 1940. Adams submitted his first notes on CBD in 1939 to the Journal of America Chemical Society, making him technically first over Todd. Todd’s version was without detail originally, with a full detailed version published in March of 1940 in the Journal of Chemical Society

Adams’ early synthetization of cannabinoids can be seen in his published research, which additionally shows a partial synthesis of delta-9 THC. Both Adams and Todd showed the isolation of CBN, which was fully mapped before CBD. Adams takes the win for first providing the structure of CBD, though Todd was right there with him. In fact, the two scientists spent a few years dueling in the scientific press, each publishing their findings as they came to them, in direct competition with each other. Later on, the two scientists became good friends and even worked together. It should be pointed out that the goal of both scientists had been to find the intoxicating agent of cannabis (delta-9), which neither ever established for sure.

During this time, delta-9 THC was not synthesized fully, though it was identified. But other compounds were synthesized, like CBN, CBD, and analogues of these cannabinoids and delta-9. CBN seems to be the very first cannabinoid that was synthesized in the quest to find delta-9, which CBN was assumed to be very closely related to. This makes CBN and CBD the first examples of synthetic cannabinoids, even though they do appear in nature. This reinforces the idea that a naturally occurring compound, can also be produced in synthetic form.

Cannabis synthetics today

We could have a whole debate about why cannabis was illegalized, and the part that pharmaceutical companies played in it, as a way to minimize use of a plant that couldn’t be patented. And while we could go back and forth on that one, the results of it can be seen clearly in today’s world. For example, while the US government likes to talk about how bad synthetics are, it also approved synthetic cannabinoid medications like Dronabinol, Epidiolex, and Sativex, and this in place of allowing the actual plant which has been used for thousands of years. This means, the only cannabis medications approved in the US, are synthetics.

In a great example of how far a government will go to protect pharmaceutical interests, France literally went to court with the EU over the ability to block sales and imports of naturally-occurring CBD. Of course, what the majority of reporters missed in the story, was that while France went on and on about the dangers of CBD (which it failed to back up in court), it was allowing GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, a synthetic version of CBD, to be sold. Kind of seems like France wasn’t actually all that against CBD, huh?

At this point, there are about a million synthetic cannabinoids out. From non-naturally occurring like THC-O-Acetate, delta-10 THC, and canabidiolic acid methyl ester, to naturally occurring, like delta-8 THC, Dronabinol (THC), and Epidiolex (cannabidiol). And then, of course, there are the compounds that are generally thought of as synthetic, like Spice and K2, although these are no more or less synthetic than the pharmaceutical versions being sold to patients, and were discovered through the same lines of research. In fact, the compound that led to spice and K2, was none other than HHC, which was created in a lab in a search to find a simplified, yet working, THC compound. THC-O-Acetate was also an early street synthetic, possibly put out by the military, as the military was doing testing on this compound, and it seems to have shown up in public around that time.

legal cannabis synthetics

Some of the first non-naturally occurring cannabinoids to be synthesized were non-naturally occurring delta THCs like delta-7 THC and delta-10 THC, synthesized around the time that Adams first identified delta-9. The very first cannabis medicine to be approved in the US, was Dronabinol, under the name of Marinol, which gained FDA approval in 1985. Marinol, of course, is synthetic, meaning the very first cannabis medicine allowed in current day America, is synthetic. Clearly the US is A-okay with synthetics.

What can be expected in the future should be obvious. Use of the plant will likely not be stopped, but increasing pressure will probably be put on consumers to buy pharmaceutical products. The demonization and smear campaigns for cannabis will in all probability continue since they incite fear, and can be used to push the pharmaceutical ‘better answer’. And though this ‘better answer’ might prove to be true for people fighting ailments like cancer, for many people, nothing more than the plant would ever be necessary.


It might not be very well known, but the history of cannabis synthetics started at around the same time as the first major breakthrough in cannabis research. Adams and Todd led the charge in the early 40’s, identifying isolating, and synthesizing CBD and CBN, making them the first isolated cannabinoids, and the first examples of synthetic cannabis compounds.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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