This post is a study in the ultra-sketchy, otherwise known as “IZMS”.  Back in July, my boyfriend, my cousin (who was visiting from England at the time), and I dropped by Pride briefly.  Same old same old:  a collection of the…eclectic (ie. the drunk, stoned, naked, flamboyant, and weird).  Nick, being the straight, rather sheltered English boy that he is, was duly horrified by such “non-institutionlized” and “unsupervised” street celebration, and extremely conscious of the fact that he was surrounded by (naked) gay men without the security of a girl to hold onto.  Having lived in Toronto for a few years and being somewhat more immune to such outrageously flamboyant displays, my boyfriend, S, had earlier that day walked down Church Street (perhaps somewhat ironically the famously gay neighbourhood of Toronto) and been handed this package:

by a guy carrying a bag of them, one of a few on the Church strip as it turned out.  He approached my boyfriend and asked him if he smoked weed, handing him the package, telling him that it was “a legalized form of marijuana” and that it was available over the counter at any convenience store.

After all three of us returned from our  stroll down Church that evening, my boyfriend pulled out the package and proposed that we give it a try.  Now, S knows his way around the bong.  Nick volunteered that he had tried many similar products back home, all with little or no effect.  The three of us split it, and after about two drags each we all started feeling the effects.  The rest of the night I can only remember vaguely for its nightmarish quality.  S, who does not green out, began throwing up repeatedly.  Nick begged us to take him to a hospital, telling us that he thought he was dying.  Barely able to lift my head off the pillow or stretch my arm out the two feet necessary to reach the water bottle, I tried to keep him talking, fighting through a fog to even form words that seemed to come from someone, somewhere else.  I remember sensations of twitching, extreme thirst, and an inability to interact with my environment or anyone around me.  Eventually I passed out, while S kept Nick talking in an effort to calm him.  I distinctly remember thinking that there was a possibility I might not wake up. The next morning all three of us looked at each other like people who’ve just survived a bombing, grateful to still be alive.

The next week, S did some investigation through the grapevine.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones with the same story.  These neatly packaged bombshells had been given out like candy at Pride, as an experiment in both product testing and guerrilla marketing.  Two people had died; one from a heart attack and one from drowning in his own vomit.  This company had targeted the Pride crowd as guinea pigs for their product.  The “legalized version of weed” came from restructuring THC molecules with something called “cannabanoids”.

There is a glaring lack of information on the website, http://theizms.com/index.php, and calls made to the phone number listed on the package, which led straight to a voicemail, went unreturned (not to mention that the 647 area code indicates that this company’s telephone number is actually a cell phone).  It is also remarkable that the product handed out to my boyfriend at Pride is not listed on the “Products” section of the website.  In fact, this company seems to sell only one product:

that is advertised as “herbal incense” “not for human consumption” on the back of the package:

On the original package, The IZMS advertises its product as the following, while maintaining that “it is not quite the same as illegal weed” (how it is “not quite the same” is never explained- other than that it is “a blend of colourful herbs laced with a unique formula of hard-hitting cannabanoids”):

“What is the IZMS?  Put simply, The IZMS is the legal version of weed

In reality it is not quite the same as illegal weed:

  • it does not burn you out heavily
  • it will not land you in jail
  • you can carry or smoke it nearly anywhere
  • it’s stronger and you get more bang for your buck”

Breaking this down, the package makes two contradictory claims in this section. It says the product “does not burn you out heavily”, but then later claims that “it’s stronger and you get more bang for your buck”.  Further research reveals that “cannabanoids” are “a group of terpenophenolic compounds present in Cannabis (”Cannabis sativa”) and occur naturally in the nervous and immune systems of animals. The broader definition of cannabinoids refers to a group of substances that are structurally related to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)”.

Further down, it states:

“Why the IZMS is better than other brands like k2, spice, etc.

  • The IZMS is created by Canadians for Canadians
  • The IZMS is designed to be stronger than those weak ass American brands
  • The IZMS is far better value.  We give you more product per pack at a cheaper price and the product is much stronger.  Because as Canadians we know you like your strong weed and you love a good deal”

So, it’s strong then?  So strong it’s lethal, apparently.  Admittedly, one shouldn’t just smoke anything handed to you by someone on the street.  That was definitely our bad.  But the pretty, pretty packaging of The IZMS (making it look much like candy, in fact) lends it some measure of institutionalized credibility, masking something much more sinister.  Google searches reveal that there is little to no discussion out there about these things.  Considering a minority demographic of the population was targeted for test marketing, that’s not too surprising.  However, it’s extremely unsettling to consider the larger implications of this: that sections of the population (especially one like the gay community, which already contends with so much discrimination) can be guerrilla targeted like this to test and market a product, which is clearly unsafe, and apparently (according to the company), “unfit for human consumption”.  That didn’t seem to concern them at Pride when they were handing these things out, literally, like candy.  Even more disturbing: people are unaware, or not vocalizing, that they were unwittingly exploited.  Pride is supposed to be a celebration for the gay community, but in this case it was just the opposite: a mechanism for corporate exploitation of a minority demographic.

NOTE: (Added January 8, 2013)

There has been an considerable amount of response to this post, which I think is indicative of the seriousness of this situation.  I would like to think that in the time since this was published, more attention has been given to this issue, but considering that I found this package on the street recently, which would indicate that there’s a new “flavour” of this product, I can only conclude that this product is becoming more widespread:


***UPDATE: March 16, 2013

I have recently been informed by a reader that the Izms have now been identified as illegal and raids have been conducted on the company and stores distributing the product.  So in response to all the below comments, there is no longer any shred of doubt as to whether this product is acceptable for mainstream consumer use.


34 thoughts on “IZMS

  1. I just wanted to say that you’re about the only person talking about this… The other day I had one of the pink Luau Love Izms packages handed to me at a concert. I took it and then later that night like you, took it with my friends. The guy who gave it to us compared it to salvia, but said the effect lasted longer. Anyways, we each took about two or three hits and then it hit us like a ton of bricks… I remember seeing vibrant colours and weird shapes, I then greened out (which I have never done before). It was one of the grossest things I’ve ever come off of.

    Someone needs to take action…

    • I am a youth worker and have been working on educating people on these and other drugs. Katherine Ward of CTV wants to do a series on this. If you are willing to talk with her please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.
      Tim Greenwood


  2. People need to be made aware if this. I had some given to me at a tobacco shop. I took 4 drags and had the scariest experience of my life. I was convinced that I had gone insane and was trapped in an alternate version of reality. Later I went into convulsions.

    • I am a youth worker and have been working on educating people on these and other drugs. Katherine Ward of CTV wants to do a series on this. If you are willing to talk with her please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.
      Tim Greenwood


  3. Hey, I’m a harm reduction outeach worker for the TRIP! Project based out of the Queen West Community Health Centre, and we’ve recently been discussing these things. I would like to have a chance to speak to you about your experience and in particular those anecdotal fatalities, as they do sound concerning and we have seen this product made available in our communities. RSVP via my included email please

    • I am currently a succesful client at a mathadone clinic and have been clean on all drugs except for weed, I smoke it every day. I tried izym’s on the same day I had to go for drud screening, my results were really terrifying. My results showed no trace weed at all, and showed trace ammounts of cocaine which I do not do. I am really unsure how that was even possible to have no weed in my system, cause it take at least thirty days for even the smallest ammount to get out and there was none. – smoked weed the same morning, the day before and so on. What really scares me though is the cocaine, I know I did nothing diferent other than izyms and I do not touch coke. My doctor even could not explain it cause I’ve been going there for three years and he knows my history.

    • A buddy and I have been smoking IZMS since the Summer. Smoking one small bowl at a time creates a very pot-like high. I have been concerned about what it is, though.

    • Chris I am working on Education for youth up in York Region. I work with Youth Speak and some other groups (youth educating youth). We are trying to get some young people with experience iwth this drug to share so we can get media and information out there. Youth think this is an alternative to marijuana and it is not. It is actually from 5 to 100’s of times as potent. Tim Greenwood

    • I am a youth worker and have been working on educating people on these and other drugs. Katherine Ward of CTV wants to do a series on this. If you are willing to talk with her please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.
      Tim Greenwood


  4. I too, smoked it with my boyfriend and 2 other friends, it sure hit us, but we didn’t green out or vomit.. no negative side effects either. My only concern is the ingredients..

  5. I can hardley stand weed but i occasionally smoke it. I tried a small amount is izms and it was strong. But not near death strong like this article pretends to claim. Some people just cant do certian drugs. And please link to the stories about the people who died at pride from this. Oh and like the “minority demographic” of church street hasn’t been using harder drugs for 40 years. god help you if someone offers you poppers…… find something you like, stay experimental and open minded, but everyones experiance is different. This article has a false ‘devil-weed’ smoke and die tone to it that izms just doesn’t earn.

    • Hi Paul,

      I appreciate that everyone’s experience was and will be different. My intent was simply to relate my experience, and provide more information on the subject, as there is a glaring lack of discussion on this topic currently (as you can see in previous comment replies to this post).

      I cannot “link” to these deaths, because I said in the article, no information is out there about these things and I heard about these deaths through word of mouth.

      I agree that people should keep an open mind, but I disagree about this article has a “false ‘devil-weed’ smoke and die tone” to it. It is simply me relating my personal experience in an attempt to raise awareness on this topic.

      • I am a youth worker and have been working on educating people on these and other drugs. Katherine Ward of CTV wants to do a series on this. If you are willing to talk with her please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.
        Tim Greenwood


  6. Hey I wrote an article about this awful stuff for The Grid, you should check it out here: http://www.thegridto.com/city/local-news/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-izms/

    I also have a post on my blog about my own personal experience here: http://riddellcreative.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/high-on-the-izms/

    It’s nice to see someone else talking about this shit. It’s interesting to note that Health Canada says the stuff is actually NOT legal, although the Izms people contend that it is. I don’t think this stuff will be around for long. At least I hope it isn’t. It is unregulated, not studied, and not safe.

    • I am a youth worker and have been working on educating people on these and other drugs. Katherine Ward of CTV wants to do a series on this. If you are willing to talk with her please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.
      Tim Greenwood


  7. Would like to find out more info on this, possibly interview you as well. I work for a major news organization in Toronto (See email). If interested, please let me know! Cheers!

    • Hi James W
      We are working on educational campaign up here in York Region. Would love to talk with you about some ideas. Feel the antidote to this sort of thing is information and education. Tim Greenwood timhgreenwood@gmail.com

      Tim Greenwood


  8. I started smoking this stuff about 2 years ago. It’s becoming a small problem in America, but it’s not too huge yet.

    It is lethal, it can kill you, unlike weed. Be extra careful with this stuff, like all drugs. Also, cheaper and more bang for your buck? Until your tolerance goes through the roof, and you’re smoking 3-5 grams a day and barely feeling anything STILL. Worse, normal weed is so to weak compared to this stuff, you won’t get high at all of of weed if you happen wanna go back, you’ll have to quit spice for awhile if you want weed to affect you again, much easier said than done.

    This stuff is crazy, but I still smoke it. Guess I’m too weak to stop, sad 😦 Atleast I still have self reflection!..A little bit anyway.

    • I am a youth worker and have been working on educating people on these and other drugs. Katherine Ward of CTV wants to do a series on this. If you are willing to talk with her please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.
      Tim Greenwood


  9. Just a little recap here, I did my own research on this stuff too I found out that they actually have 4 different flavours as of late, and they arrange them by “strength”, from double A, Triple A, and Quad A. From lowest to highest they are as follows; Gin ‘n Juice (the orange package you last posted), Lua Love (The pinkish package posted above), Boom Kron (Not usually readily sold as it is apparently “still in the testing stages”), and Grape Drank (which is by far the strongest). The website has been changing around their look as well as their legal shit, they now specify you’re not supposed to smoke as much of it to get the same effect as weed, you need only a few pinches of the stuff to get blow’d.
    I myself have actually found a new somewhat more positive use for this product; if you don’t have that much weed around and you happen to have a little package of this stuff lying around you just add a little of this stuff, and it prolongs your high, and from what I’ve found, mixed with weed actually won’t leave you burned out, unlike when smoked alone.
    Though I still find this product undoubtedly sketchy, I feel that properly used it can yield a pretty great effect. I do wish they’d let people know what’s in it though…

  10. Alright here’s the thing about IZMS. Where it’s coming from is Canada, and in Canada the weed is a lot better than… Pretty much anywhere. B.C. Bud is the best in the world, and we smoke it every day, we kind of have a higher tolerence due to the quality. Fuck, maybe this thing should stay in Canada.

  11. I’ve heard enough. This stuff scares me just hearing about it. wow. N I’m no puritan; I smoke weed n chew shrooms regularly but I’m paranoid just reading about this stuff.

  12. My buddy got a bag of Grape Drank. I take an SSRI called Celexa for anxiety and have been on it for five years with no panic attacks. I would like to add that I have been smoking weed daily along with my Celexa for those whole 5 years since I had my last panic attack or any form of anxiety for the most part. Anyways I smoked a nice joint with my boy of the IZMS and it gave me slight chest pain similar to symptoms of anxiety. It went away though, I got a bit burnt out, then I had a wave of energy come on. From then on I felt like I was riding a high similar to Ecstasy which led me to believe there is possible seretonin uptake inhibitors in the IZMS which would make it potentially unsafe for people on SSRIs. Anyways I smoked two small roaches of the IZMS the next day and I once again felt like I was on E. So I smoked two days in a row. The next evening, I did not smoke any. I did however smoke honey oil.. alot of it lol. Once I got in my car to drive home I was hit with a full blown panic attack. Today (second day of not smoking) I once again smoked some oil. Shortly after I had an agoraphobic episode where I had another panic attack. Im definitely not smoking this shit again because legit for 5 years I had no feeling of anxiety and now all a sudden Im having panic attacks. Anybody else with similar experience? Would like to know so I can pin point the problem of the sudden anxiety again.

  13. I have been smoking it for months and I have definitely noticed a huge difference- my bong is cleaner, my lungs feel better and my memory is better. One has to question the authenticity of some, not all but some, of these posts that appear to have very unusual claims as to how it feels…Some are liking this to an acid like affect lol. While I am curious of the ingredients I have not had or heard of a single issue (and I sell it at my store). As such, due to the cleaner smoke (in tar anyway) and not having to deal with sketchy drug dealers I, logically, have a positive impression of it.

  14. I work in a position not unlike one at Health Canada and am involved in research on synthetic marijuana and the enforcement of its legality… HC is not fully correct in saying the product IS illegal… they should say it MAY BE illegal… Schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act lists cannabis and a few different synthetic preparations… the problem here is that we do not know which synthetic cannabinoid is being used in this drug. they may be able to circumvent the CDSA by altering the formula, much like is done with bath salts in the USA. As for the health effects, most of the stories you hear are based on negative reviews. We have noticed that the actual health effects tend to be closer to marijuana than is shown in internet reviews, based on large population surveys. that said, every person reacts differently and this drug should not be taken lightly. if you do take it, take it easy and slowly learn the smallest amount required for you to get the desired effect. when done properly, it is possible for this drug to be taken with a decreased risk of health effects. if one who has never taken marijuana before were to take very large hits, they too would have a similar result. this is not marijuana, even though the effects are similar. treat it as a new drug. also, there have been no deaths in canada definitively linked to synthetic marijuana, that is a fact. anecdotal stories about deaths are baseless.

  15. Hey All:
    Great to read this discussion. Will come back and read more. . I think Synthetic Weed was not meant for human consumption. The scientist creator who first synthesized for research purposes described anyone who used the stuff for recreational purposes as “Idiots!” Think this can be challenged in a coherent collective and intelligent way. The truth is the best way to address this issue is to Educate and Discuss and provide information. Many youth smoke this stuff unawares of its nasty potential. Also use its supposed Greatest Strength (in a martial arts kind of way) to take it down. That supposed strength is its connection to Weed. But this is not Weed. On the Vaults of Erowid website they call it Weed’s Wicked Stepsister or something like that. Why not a really cool movie like poster with that Image and idea and then have tons of quotes from users who had terrible experiences just like they were movie quotes and include tasty facts like deaths and all the side effects.
    Also interesting to not many Weed Supporters are strongly opposed to this stuff. Cannabis TV even has one whole episode devoted to its evils.
    Also what we need is creative minds working on potentially Viral Web campaigns. What would happen if Fertile Creative Comic Minds like Justin Timberlake or others got onside and actually did Educational type videos on Youtube that went National International Viral and then got people talking. The more we talk and share and learn the more success we will have dealing with problems like Synthetic Weed. It is survives by being shrouded in a smoke of ignorance misinformation and intrigue and once you blow that away the bare Nastiness of it is exposed!
    Tim G

  16. I haven’t smoked weed in 6 years – one day I just thought enough was enough and that was that. When I used to smoke weed it was always high quality indoor grown bud. I recently had a friend over who mentioned this izms stuff as legal weed sold over the counter, which really surprised me. So even though I am leary and sketched out by the whole drug scene now, I guess curiosity got the best of me as I am an extremely curious person. So I tried two small hoots and that was it. Well to be honest I was so out of it – it was not even funny – I was too high I could not deal with anything, this stuff is way way more potent than even the best marijuana and to be honest the stuff scared me and freaked me out – its that potent – so potent that the high is not really even enjoyable I would say it is at least 20 times more potent than regular bud maybe more, but this stuff is too much – it was very very similar to weed but like I say its way too strong and I think its sketchy to get a person that high from such a small amount, and not really know what is in there. I don’t think it will be legal for long if it is.

  17. Synthetic cannabis, also known as synthetic cannabinoids, doesn’t contain any real cannabis. It’s a blend of herbs sprayed with man-made hallucinogens that mimic the effects of marijuana.

    Synthetic marijuana is typically packaged in small pouches with brand names like Spice, K-2 or IZMS. The packages often say “not for human consumption” on the label.

    Wookey insisted the product isn’t illegal. In May, charges in the case were stayed without explanation. The current charges against him aren’t connected to Izms, police said.

  18. Thank you Redcheeked for sharing your experience, and to all those who commented as well.
    I was given a pre-rolled luau love in fun packaging about 5 months ago by a friend. I have smoked weed for 25 years. I have used and enjoyed various chemical drugs in my younger years. 2 weeks ago I decided I was going to clean my house and thought perhaps the izms would complement the experience. I took a puff and by the time the joint was at my lips for the second I was hit by a full body buzz. I took the second puff, put the joint out and can only describe the next few hours as unbelievable. I was completely rocked. I experienced panic and anxiety to the point of nausea and did infact vomit – twice. My heart was racing and pounding out of my chest. 2 puffs. The joint looked untouched when I was done with it. I could go into great detail describing all that occurred but will sum it up with : for me the best part of this high was the feeling of survival once it was over. Sure, I had some interesting insights during my panic ridden, slightly hallucinogenic afternoon but I will never touch this poison again. I am convinced that had I smoked even 4 puffs of my joint that I would have checked myself into the hospital with heart attack symptoms. I developed a deep chest cough the next day which I still have today. In the few days post smoking I broke out in hives, first on the lower half of my body and then 2 days later on the upper. I have since done as much research as possible with the limited information available on synthetic ‘weed’. I do understand that not everyone has this type of reaction and many actually enjoy it. However I also understand that it is so unregulated that every sample available can differ wildly in terms of potency. I have no idea it I am allergic to one of the unknown chemicals I smoked or if my joint was just particularly strong. What I do know is that enough people react negatively to make this stuff, which is so easy to get your hands on, very dangerous. I am sickened to think of minors or inexperienced drug users going through what I went through. I am happy to hear that steps are being taken to take it off the shelves!!!

  19. I’ve tried all flavours of Izms. The purple is preferred because I smoke less and get a good buzz. I’m going to try vapourizing, this might be a bit “healthier” (health Canada suggests vapourizing to medical marijuana users) I definitely get more anxiety from synthetics.(depends on the person I guess) And I get the “munchies” bigtime! No adverse side effects, after about six months of regular use. I smoke in the privacy and comfort of my home. I never smoke at or when I have to go to work. I used to smoke marijuana but the place where I work tests for THC if something happens. Word is synthetics aren’t tested for, so it allows people like myself to enjoy on our own time without losing our jobs for unrelated incidents. If our Canadian government would wake up and legalize the natural stuff, regulate it like alcohol, and do swab tests (like breathalyzer rules) This fake stuff wouldn’t be so popular. I see some tests for synthetics are coming out but who knows what companies will use it. Alcohol is by far a worse substance for violence, drunk driving and dependence. Pot makes you mellow and hungry and creative. I’d rather my kids smoke pot than drink. (cause their gonna do something) Sooner or later our laws will change, its gonna take some courageous politicians first.

  20. This is from a long time ago, but I actually got ‘confirmation’ on the ingredients for all 3 flavors I used. Each package had 3 different chemicals in it, most of them in the JWH family.
    It took me almost a year to bring my tolerance back to bring an effect off normal buds.
    One night I even felt like I was having a heart attack (overdose obviously). And in one instance I had pain in the lung for about a weak if I breathed too heavily.. Scary stuff. I would wake up every four hours or so from sleep, to smoke more IZMS to go back to bed. It was insane. I’m very glad it was banned. I had severe side effects for about a year after stopping. Just stick to the recreational that’s coming out next year!

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