Special to The Leader
People have been figuring out ways to get high since the early days of man. By now, we have volumes upon volumes available on the subject. One simple Google search of “how to get high” yields roughly 267,000,000 results. So why are people resorting to smoking the leaves of the marshmallow plant? Marshmallow leaf must be the next new great high, right?
“Legal highs” have become more and more prevalent due to a number of factors: drug-testing becoming commonplace, the stigma surrounding the use of “real” drugs and often times simple curiosity; drug users looking for a new way to alter their moods. Mixes such as K2, Spice and so-called “Bath Salts,” have gotten much press thanks to the mystery that surrounds them and the pronounced effects both good and bad on their users.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) in and of itself yields very little effect upon the human body when ingested or smoked it turns out. Websites advertise it as producing a “calming sensation” while others suggest it should be used to make tea in order to yield the same results.
It has been used medicinally for the last 2 millennia according to Livestrong.com to treat things such as sore throat, skin rashes and gastrointestinal maladies. This doesn’t exactly sound like the next party drug.
Marshmallow was widely used as filler in the Spice and K2 “herbal incense” mixes. Marshmallow was used because it burns well and leaves few side effects. The chemicals would be spritzed upon the leaves, as smoking pure JWH-018, the chemical used to treat marshmallow leaves, is not only dangerous but also incredibly hard to gauge dosage. The effective dose of most JWH-family drugs amounts to a few grains of sand, making the ingestion of far too much incredibly simple.
The herbal incense mixes containing these chemicals was illegalized by the Drug Enforcement Agency on March 1, 2011 and will stay that way until March 1 of this year when they will be up for Schedule I review again. Ex-distributors of the mixes now have pounds and pounds of the marshmallow plant sitting in their warehouses and are now marketing it as a marijuana substitute to users.
Adam Sledzinski of local head shop “Headin’ To East Main” said he’s never even heard of people attempting to get high on marshmallow, but doesn’t doubt it. Regarding Spice and other products like it, Sledzinski says, “Imagine taking all the [expletive] under your kitchen sink and spraying it on parsley… Smoke a bowl, then start vomiting violently for six hours. Sounds like a lot of fun.”
Sledzinski says he has never and will never sell those kind of legal highs at the store, nor at their Buffalo location (Headin’ To Hertel), but he gets a number of people coming into the shop requesting them. Largely, he says those requesting the products are members of sports teams. His response to them stays the same: “I don’t sell drugs.”
A SUNY Fredonia student who wished to remain anonymous was asked if he would ever try to smoke marshmallow leaf or herbal incense mixes. He identified himself as a daily marijuana user and said, “No, absolutely not. I wouldn’t smoke anything like that except weed. How do I know what it’s going to do to my body? It’s made in a lab.”
While more and more wannabe stoners are being tricked into buying marshmallow leaf and root and smoking it, others are peeved by the whole thing. Marina Hirschfeld, a junior theater major at Fredonia, expressed her feelings regarding legal highs. Those who are smoking marshmallow leaf, she says, “Are the people who should be spending their time advocating for the legalization of marijuana.”
It seems the real issue here is the stigma surrounding marijuana. People’s desire to get high exists, for one reason or another, without question. Drug testing and the reputation that marijuana carries with it persuades many hopeful users towards products like this with devastating effects.
Stories of JWH overdoses run rampant on the internet. Multiple users have reported things such as uncontrollable vomiting, hallucinations, numbness and muscle spasms for weeks after one use. It would seem that marshmallow is simply a pawn in the alternative drug game, left over from the days of K2 and liquidated to those tricked into buying it.
“They’ll always find a way…It’s just like the whole Four Loko thing,” said MK Pottenburgh, a senior video production major at Fredonia. “There will always be that guy who wants to push the limit – outdo whatever you took times four. It’s like ‘Oh my God you’re a hardass.’ Smoking marshmallow, are you kidding me? I don’t want to be that guy.”