Lab Matters Summer 2018 | Page 16

from the bench Indiana and Wisconsin Respond to Synthetic Cannabinoid Contamination by Aaron Bolner, chemist, Indiana State Public Health Laboratory; Mary Hagerman, chemistry division director, Indiana State Public Health Laboratory; Pradip Patel, food chemistry supervisor, Indiana State Public Health Laboratory; and Noel V. Stanton, chemical response coordinator, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene The use of synthetic cannabinoids has been on the rise since their introduction in the early 2000s. Synthetic cannabinoids are dried plant material—often similar in appearance to tea leaves or herbs—which are sprayed with a chemical mixture, packaged and sold as a legal alternative to marijuana. Sellers of these products, often referred to as “spice,” “K2” or “fake weed,” are constantly altering formulas to stay ahead of the laws and to enhance potency, sometimes with lethal effects. After epidemiologists identified synthetic cannabinoids as the source of a spring 2018 outbreak of unexplained bleeding, two state public health laborat