Synthetic marijuana use has become so pervasive – especially amongst young people – it ranked third in 2012 on the list of the top substances abused by high schoolers in the U.S., according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

However, compared to alcohol and marijuana, synthetic pot use still pales in comparison. Last year, 57 percent of high school students used alcohol, 39 percent sampled marijuana, and approximately 12 percent used synthetic pot such as Spice and K2. This means fake pot use now outranks cocaine, ecstasy, and surprisingly, prescription painkillers for students grades nine through 12.

CESAR Director Eric Wish told the Baltimore Sun that the feds are struggling to control the synthetic pot phenomenon because, despite being banned, new chemical compounds are created to skirt the laws. He cited two such examples of new cannabinoids, UR-144 and XLR-11. There is also the issue of side-effects associated with synthetic marijuana that do not exist with actual cannabis, and each new synthetic cannabinoid can bring with it potential new dangers to the user.

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