Marijuana is a natural plant that grows both in the wild and is cultivated for its medicinal properties and for recreational use. Though synthetic cannabinoids are chemical relatives to substances in marijuana, they are not actually found in plant-based marijuana. The chemical and pharmacological properties of synthetic cannabinoids are largely unknown outside of the laboratory.
A market for synthetic cannabinoids developed in the early 2000s due to the ongoing prohibition of marijuana and advances in technology that allowed for access to drug research and easier chemical production.
Synthetic cannabinoid products were produced and sold in herbal smoking blends as legal marijuana replacements. The products are packaged and branded to suggest a similarity to the effects of marijuana, but because the materials are inert herbal mixtures doused with synthetic cannabinoids, their appearance, taste, and smell are different.