Synthetic herbal incense called 'Mojo' a popular -- but pricey -- alternative to pot


by Jeff Vaughn / KENS 5

Posted on March 2, 2010 at 8:20 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- Smoking marijuana can get you fired, but some employees are finding new ways of getting high without it showing up on a drug test.

"Mojo" is the name for a synthetic herbal incense, and it is becoming a popular -- but pricey -- alternative to marijuana.

Mojo isn't even a drug. It can be found at area head shops, corner gas stations and even pharmacies. It comes in a small package, but it packs a punch. And that high has attracted hard core drug users like Casey Nunez.

Nunez smokes mojo for the buzz it brings, he says, "because it's that good."

The faux pot is not cheap: We found one gram of mojo selling for around $40. The Drug Enforcement Agency reports mojo is more expensive than marijuana found on the street. The reason: Nunez says they buy mojo not only for the high, but because it's legal and it doesn't show up in a drug test.

It's also easy to buy mojo in San Antonio. KENS 5 sent a producer undercover to pick through the herbal incense selection of a San Antonio head shop. After spotting mojo, she asked the clerk if it’s used for anything else.

The clerk told her, "Yes, you can smoke it." The clerk even suggested that if she wanted a better buzz, she should buy "space," which is another type of herbal incense.

These herbs are sold as incense, and they can be found on the internet, where you must be 18 to purchase them. But underage students are getting it and getting high. At the local head shop KENS 5 visited, mojo is only sold to adults.

Mojo is so new to South Texas, SAISD reports they’ve never heard of the fake weed. The San Antonio police department’s narcotics unit was also unaware of mojo.

But many have heard of it. Friday night at the San Antonio head shop KENS 5 visited, our producer got the last gram. The clerk told our undercover producer they typically sell out of the synthetic herb and need extra staff to handle the orders.

Professor John Huffman from Clemson University created mojo as part of a pharmaceutical research project. In an email to a Missouri newspaper, "the professor says ‘Mojo’ has never been tested on humans and could have toxic results. It should not be used as a recreational drug."

Nunez admits he used to be an everyday marijuana user, but now he gets stoned on mojo. "It has a very similar feel to marijuana when you are under the influence of it," he said.

Faux pot lacks the chemical THC, and that attracts users like Nunez who smoke it for the buzz -- and to keep his habits hidden from his boss. "Ny job requires drug testing," Nunez said. "That's why I don't smoke weed."

Without THC, fake weed doesn’t show up in a company drug test, but a federal agency is catching on. The DEA is trying to replicate fake weed in the agency’s lab tests so it will show up on drug tests.

Mojo is legal in the state of Texas. However, the state of Kansas just made mojo illegal, and Missouri is looking to pass a similar law banning herbal incense.