John W. Huffman

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John W. Huffman
Born(1932-07-21)July 21, 1932
DiedMay 14, 2022(2022-05-14) (aged 89)
Alma materBS Northwestern (1954)
PhD Harvard (1957)
Known forSynthetic cannabinoids
Scientific career
FieldsOrganic chemistry
Institutions(1957–1960) Georgia Tech
(1960–2010) Clemson
Doctoral advisorNobel laureate Robert Woodward

John William Huffman (1932–2022) was a professor of organic chemistry at Clemson University who first synthesised novel cannabinoids.[1] His research, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was focused on making a drug to target endocannabinoid receptors in the body.[2]

Cannabinoid research[edit]

Beginning in 1984, Huffman and his team of researchers began synthesizing cannabinoid compounds with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) properties for medical research purposes.[3] Over the course of twenty years, Huffman and his team developed over 400 synthetic cannabinoid compounds which were used as pharmacological tools to study endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptor genetics. Ultimately, the cannabinoid research provided better understanding of the physiological cannabinoid control system in the human body and brain and opened a path of "elucidating this natural regulatory mechanism in health and disease."[4]

In the late 2000s, two of Huffman's cannabinoid compounds were found in street drugs K2 and Spice being sold in Germany as marijuana alternatives. "I figured once it got started in Germany it was going to spread. I'm concerned that it could hurt people," Huffman said. "I think this was something that was more or less inevitable. It bothers me that people are so stupid as to use this stuff".[5] Huffman may have developed these compounds for scientific research, but as of 2011 he was blamed for its abuse.[6] As JWH-018 is more potent and easy to make, Huffman believes it is a more widely used synthetic cannabinoid of the JWH series.[7]

Legal advisor[edit]

More than half a dozen countries had banned herbal blends containing synthetic cannabinoids as of 2010 and many others were also considering banning them.[7] In the US, the states of Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and New York banned K2, herbal incense. JWH-018 was banned by controlled substances act on December 21, 2012.

Law enforcement officials in Canada asked Huffman to serve as a consultant and expert witness. He received numerous media queries and requests for analytical help from law enforcement officials. Huffman planned to provide law officials with updates on JWH advancements following his 2010 retirement.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Clemson University: Department of Chemistry: John W. Huffman". Archived from the original on 2018-04-21. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  2. ^ Brownstein, Joseph (March 17, 2010), K2 Giving People Another Dangerous Way to Get High, ABC News
  3. ^ Terrence McCoy. How this chemist unwittingly helped spawn the synthetic drug industry, The Washington Post, August 9, 2015.
  4. ^ Onaivi, Emmanuel S., et al. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptor genetics, Progress in Neurobiology, Volume 66, Issue 5, April 2002, Pages 307-344.
  5. ^ Michael Tatusov, Maryann Mazer-Amirshahi, Lewis Nelson, and Jesse Pines. 6 Things Every EP Needs to Know About K2/Spice & the Synthetic Cannabinoid Epidemic, Emergency Physicians Monthly, October 23, 2015.
  6. ^ Wiley, Jenny L., et al. Hijacking of Basic Research: The Case of Synthetic Cannabinoids, Methods Report (RTI Press), November 2011: 17971. doi:10.3768/rtipress.2011.op.0007.1111
  7. ^ a b c Wang, Linda (June 28, 2010). "John W. Huffman: Organic chemist invented a compound in 1995 that is now at the center of a controversy brewing over synthetic marijuana". Chemical & Engineering News. 88 (26): 43. doi:10.1021/cen-v088n026.p043. Retrieved October 8, 2011.

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