Synthetic pot is a blend of dried herbs and chemical cannabanoid additives. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Cannabist Q&A: Synthetic pot users, treating anxiety, cannabutter leftovers

Welcome to our new Ask The Cannabist column. Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity, a Colorado-centric inquiry or something more far-reaching. Check out our expansive, 64-question Colorado marijuana FAQ first, and if you’re still curious, email your question to Ask The Cannabist at

Hey, Cannabist!
I’ve read about some of these problems with synthetic marijuana. When real-deal pot is readily available and legal all over the place, why do people resort to the synthetic stuff?
— Cotton over Polyester

Hey, Cotton over Polyester!
Sounds like you’re in a sweet spot, but marijuana isn’t readily available everywhere. Synthetic marijuana is available at gas stations, head shops and online, often marketed as natural incense not for intended for consumption. It is a blend of dried herbs and chemical cannabanoid additives. When smoked, it creates a similar high to marijuana. There have been no scientific studies on safety for synthetic marijuana but we do know the synthetic additives act on the same receptor cells as THC in marijuana.

People who smoke synthetic marijuana likely do it because they can’t find marijuana to buy. Either they are not an adult (21 or older) in a state that has legalized recreational marijuana, do not have a medical condition approved for medical marijuana, or they don’t know how to reliably access the black market.

Also, people who regularly take urine tests are more likely to smoke synthetic marijuana because it will not trigger a positive for THC in a drug test.

It’s worth noting that synthetic marijuana is illegal in Colorado. XO


Hey, Cannabist!
I suffer from very intense anxiety. I have been taking Xanax to calm my nerves, but several others have suggested I try pot. I learned not to eat too much. Do you have any suggestions?
— Blanched in Belmar

Hey, Blanched in Belmar!
I absolutely recommend exploring medical marijuana as a treatment option. The health professionals that assist with your personal health and wellness are the people to talk to about your specific options.
The medicinal effects on the body depend on the ingestion method. As you’ve already learned, use caution as you experiment with medical marijuana, especially edibles and capsules.

Common side-effects from too much THC consumption are paranoia and/or anxiety. It’s no fun at all when you unknowingly bite off more than you can chew (as was the case with some CU-Boulder students and professor). Be reassured, marijuana itself isn’t fatal, but it’s a good practice to be cautious and incremental. XO

Read more Cannabist Q&A: Traveling with pot, fighting insomnia and more.


Hey, Cannabist!
I’m making cannabutter, and I’m squeezing the butter from the cheesecloth, but that still leaves me with a bunch of green leftovers. Is that pot worth anything at that point, or have all of its magical powers moved over to the liquid butter?
–Buddy Crocker

Hey, Buddy Crocker!
Make sure the magic is being maximized. Before you make the cannabutter, heat up the cannabis trim in a 240-degree oven for 30 minutes. The low heat preps the plant material to release more THC. Also, give the butter and trim plenty of water to mix with in the simmering pot. Check out The Cannabist’s handy cannabutter recipe here.

If you did a thorough job making the cannabutter, all of the plant’s potent properties will have transferred into the butter. The remaining plant material is ready for the compost pile.

(For additional guidance, check this Cannabist Kitchen Kush recipe.) XO