A trip into any of several independent markets in Murfreesboro reveals a rainbow of customers with varying backgrounds purchasing tiny bags of an herbal mix.
While a disclaimer on each package reads “Not for human consumption,” the nearby bongs, glass pipes and scales reveal the herbal mix’s actual use. A quick web search results in lengthy descriptions of the herbs on sites like WeedSmokersGuide.com.
Earlier this year, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen made the use, manufacture, distribution and possession of synthetic marijuana and cocaine illegal, which raises many questions about the legality of “herbal incense” bags still hanging in stores across the state. But technically, Bredesen outlawed specific synthetic cannaboids, including JWH-018, JWH-073, HU-210 and HU-211, which offer a high similar to that of marijuana.
Two local entrepreneurs, who requested to be identified only by their initials, J.D. and A.S., saw Bredesen’s decision as a challenge to create a new blend of herbs that would offer a similar aromatic experience.
“After K-3 became illegal, we started doing research to see what it was,” A.S. said.
The duo launched Nibirian Herbs in midsummer and attempted several mixes before settling on a blend they’ve dubbed Vampire Blood. Given the current craze of vampire-related anything and everything, the two men jumped on board. J.D. said the name was chosen after watching a character on “True Blood” drink vampire blood and become fuzzy.
“That’s the type of aroma our product produces,” he said, adding that a gram sells for about $12.
“It generates a relaxed, euphoric feeling when you burn it in your house,” A.S. added.
Vampire Blood is marketed as herbal incense, but is often “misused” by customers.
“Whatever you, as a consumer, choose to do with it when you leave the store is up to you,” J.D. said.
He likened the product to Reddi-wip, which is intended for pies, not whippets, which are the gas-filled steel cartridges in cans of whipped cream. The gas is nitrous oxide.
“We’re not promoting the misuse of our product,” he contends. “When you do burn it, the smoke is no more harmful for you than if you’re burning nag champa (a popular incense).”
A.S. chimed in by saying, “We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re giving them a pleasant aroma for their house.”
Vampire Blood isn’t the only brand out there offering a similar experience—K10, Skunk, Herbal Bliss, Faded Moon and Exotica are all also available around town.
“People prefer our blend to the competitors,” J.D. said.
And he may be correct.
Kareem Yafai, owner of Middle Tennessee Market near the corner of Greenland Drive and Middle Tennessee Boulevard, said Vampire Blood outsells the other two brands available there.
While customers must be at least 18 years old to buy the herbal incense, they come in all shapes, sizes and ages, Yafai said.
Very commonly, the herbal blend is purchased by “everybody that is on probation who can’t smoke.”
“I think that’s why it was made for—there’s no THC in it,” he said, referring to the active ingredient in marijuana.
Given the common use, or misuse, of the product, Yafai said it doesn’t seem necessary to label the products as incense.
“I think they did that for the police, so they couldn’t know it was like a drug, or used as a drug. But now, I don’t think they should put ‘Not for human consumption,’ because the information is all out there.”
Regardless of its legality, consumers are still wary of making it known that they smoke it. Two women who recently purchased some Vampire Blood from Middle Tennessee Market were willing to talk, but requested to remain anonymous.
At age 40, one woman said she used to smoke marijuana but kicked the habit after her daughter was born. Well, and “because it’s illegal,” she said.
She still gets the urge, though, and once she discovered K3 and then Vampire Blood, she opts for it instead.
“It’s very, very, very similar (to marijuana) and almost has a trippiness to it,” she said. “But it doesn’t last as long, and you don’t get the munchies.”
Her friend said the high lasts longer if you smoke it several times in one sitting. “If you feel yourself coming down, you can just smoke it a second or third time,” the 34-year-old explained.
The side effects of smoking this legal herbal mixture are relatively unknown, save for the rapid heartbeat, nausea and dizziness associated with the outlawed blends.
The two women showed some concern about the unknown side effects of the chemical-laden herbs, but it wasn’t going to stop them from smoking.
“It worries me more to test positive on a drug test than the possible (health) effects,” the second woman said.
The first woman added that she wasn’t really bothered by the risk “because I pretty much live a healthy life other than that, and I don’t put chemicals in my body anymore.”
That said, they both agreed they’d rather see their children bring home marijuana than the synthetic
“To me, pot is . . . natural,” the first woman said.
Still, more and more smokers are trying the blended alternative, available at shops all over.
For more information on the blend produced right here in Murfreesboro, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.