When people start bleeding from their faces after smoking a legal knockoff weed, it’s maybe time for the feds to rethink the cost of prohibition. And it seems, that time is nigh.

Since last month, in Illinois, 32 people have visited emergency rooms, gushing blood from almost every orifice on their body. Some are coughing up crimson phlegm, others bleeding hysterically from their noses and their ears. But, perhaps most petrifying, are those who came streaming in, blood spouting from their terrified eyes.

The situation, says people on the scene, looked apocalyptic. And in response, on March 27, the state was forced to issue official health warnings.  

The pernicious root of this problem is spreading throughout Illinois — and, in fact, throughout America at large. It is an insipid, half-breed mockery of everything cannabis is and stands for. A wicked doppelgänger, more akin to rat poison than the drug it’s advertised to resemble. And it’s legal in 40 U.S. states.

You’ll hear newscasters and politicians calling it synthetic weed. But anyone who’s ever actually smoked pot knows this crap couldn’t be more dissimilar to the real deal.

It’s “Spice” (aka K2, Black Mamba, and/or Crazy Clown), and contains absolutely no actual THC. The chemicals used instead are known as “synthetic cannabinoids” and are intended to mimic the effects of natural cannabinoids. These synthetic versions, however, do not produce any of the medicinal benefits of real marijuana. They are not natural or organic in any way, they are highly addictive, and have resulted in multiple fatalities (2 so far in the recent Illinois case).

The term “synthetic cannabinoid” itself is as vague and confusing as the highs they give you. These compounds can range drastically in potency from one brand to the next; and because there are over 700 different chemicals that technically constitute as synthetic cannabinoids, it’s anyone’s guess what’s actually in the spice they sell at stores.

It’s a blind leap of faith, smoking that stuff — one that rarely ends well.

[photo via tucultivo]

Spice is a cheap high; it’s a dirty, unsatisfying buzz that leaves users dry, dumb and wanting more. It tastes like smoking detergent, and now, it’s making people hemorrhage like devil’s tooth mushrooms.  

The lesson here is an important one: never confuse the word "legal" with the word "safe." Sleeping with a starving pack of rabid coyotes is legal — but likely, not safe. Smoking marijuana is illegal according to the federal government, however, science has proven it is (for the most part) safe.

Buying and smoking spice is totally legal in some states; but, you’re probably going to bleed out of something, and you might die because of it.

It’s an ass-backwards situation, but the facts here remain the same: people want to get high, they want to smoke weed, and in many places where they can’t get it, they’re turning to a “legal” alternative that is doing strange and hellish things to them. Whatever this outbreak in Illinois is, it’s just horrifying enough to really drive home the point: cannabis needs to become legally available in every corner of America.

Lest people start bleeding out their faces all over the country.