Back in 1984, a scientist at Clemson University named
John W. Huffman began studying the interaction between drugs and brain receptors. He and his colleagues created 460 synthetic cannabinoid compounds that resemble THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Why? The answer was harmless enough. The brain receptors play a role in regulating pain and inflammation in the body, and as Huffman and his team tested their cannabinoid compounds on lab animals, the results were promising—some of their compounds succeeded in reducing pain, inflammation, and certain skin cancers. In fact, one of his compounds, JWH-133 (named after Huffman), shrank brain tumors and regressed non-melanoma skin cancers in mice—a very exciting discovery for Huffman.
Then things started to go south, as Huffman had feared. He published his positive findings, but the chemical formulas, some very easy to reproduce with common substances, fell into the hands of the wrong people and the fake marijuana craze had begun.