Researchers at UAMS will study synthetic marijuana’s effects on human cells in the lab, in mice, and in those admitted to the emergency room. Pictured: Synthetic marijuana (aka Spice) seized by Denver police is seen in this file photo. (Provided by Denver Police Dept)

Researchers receive $2.7M federal grant to study synthetic cannabinoids

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences have received a federal grant to study the dangers posed by synthetic marijuana products.

The $2.7 million grant is from the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse. Over five years, the seven-member UAMS team will study why synthetic compounds — such as K2 and Spice — are more toxic than marijuana.

Related: Synthetic cannabinoids are not “synthetic marijuana.” What you need to know about Spice, K2 and others

Synthetic cannabinoids are psychoactive chemicals that are often sprayed on plants, then cut up to look like marijuana. They are also sold as powders, tablets and capsules.

Researchers will study the compounds’ effects on human cells in the lab, in mice, and in those who take the synthetic drugs and are admitted to the emergency room at UAMS and at ERs in New York.