Exploring the Synthetic Cannabinoid JWH-203 A Powerful Cannabinoid Agonist


JWH-203 or AM-203 is a synthetic cannabinoid that has gained attention due to its use as an analytical reference standard in the detection of other synthetic cannabinoids. Despite being primarily used for research purposes, JWH-203 has also been found to have recreational use among drug users. This article provides examination of JWH-203, covering its general information, physical and chemical properties, pharmacology, effects and symptoms, street names, prices and approximate dosage, legal status, synthesis methods, and conclusions based on the available research. The paper aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of JWH-203 and its potential risks and benefits.

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General Information About JWH-203 [1-8]

Other synonyms names of JWH-203 are: Ethanone, 2-(2-chlorophenyl)-1-(1-pentyl-1H-indol-3-yl)-; 2-(2-Chlorophenyl)-1-(1-pentyl-1H-indol-3-yl)ethanone; 1-Pentyl-3-(2-chlorophenylacetyl)indole; 2-(2-chlorophenyl)-1-(1-pentylindol-3-yl)ethanone

IUPAC Name of JWH-203: 2-(2-chlorophenyl)-1-(1-pentylindol-3-yl)ethanone

CAS number is 864445-54-5

Physico-Chemical Properties of JWH-203 [1-8]

  • Molecular Formula C21H22ClNO
  • Molar Weight 339.86 g/mol
  • Boiling point 497.7±25.0 °C at 760 mmHg
  • Melting Point 97-105°C
  • Solubility: DMF: 10 mg/ml; DMSO: 5 mg/ml; Chloroform; Ethyl Acetate; Methanol
  • Color/Form: Pale Yellow Solid
  • Odor: Characteristic

Structural formula present on Figure 1.

Figure 1. Structure of JWH-203

Crystalline solid possible of the JWH-203 can be seen in the pictures provided in Figure 2 and Figure 3.

Figure 2. Crystalline solid of JWH-203
Figure 3. Powder of JWH-203

General Information of JWH-203 in Recreational Use and Pharmacology [9-13]

JWH 203 is a synthetic cannabinoid that serves as an analytical reference standard for the detection of other synthetic cannabinoids. This designer drug has been found to have similar effects on locomotor activity and cb2 receptor binding as the natural cannabinoid anandamide. Detection of JWH 203 in urine samples can be achieved through LC-MS/MS and LC-HRMS methods. The chemical structure of JWH 203 consists of a hydroxyl group and an alkyl chain with two methyl groups at the terminal end. JWH 203 belongs to the phenylacetylindole family of analgesic chemicals that act as cannabinoid (CB) agonists. It has Ki values of 8.0 and 7.0 nM at the CB1 and CB2 receptors, respectively. Unlike most aminoalkylindole CB compounds, JWH 203 has a phenylacetyl group in place of the naphthoyl ring. Compared to the related 2/’-methoxy compound JWH 250, JWH 203 displays slightly stronger binding affinities for the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Effects and symptoms of JWH-203 Use

Synthetic cannabinoids

Clinical case reports of patients acutely intoxicated after consuming synthetic cannabinoids have described a range of somatic and neuropsychiatric effects, including tachycardia, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, generalized convulsions, agitation, hallucinations, acute psychosis, somnolence, myoclonia, and hypokalemia. Unfortunately, there is limited information available about the volume of distribution of synthetic cannabinoids. However, given that all synthetic cannabinoids found in herbal mixtures so far are highly lipophilic, their volumes of distribution are likely similar to that of THC. This increases the risk of cumulative effects in case of repeated consumption. Another issue arising from these physicochemical properties is the extended detectability of synthetic cannabinoids in blood or urine samples after prolonged abuse. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with synthetic cannabinoid use and to conduct further research to better understand their pharmacological effects and risks.

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Street Names, Prices and Approximate Dosage

Jamaican Gold

In recent years, synthetic cannabinoids have emerged in the drug market, often sold as undisclosed additives in “herbal mixtures” such as “Spice,” “Lava Red,” or “Jamaican Gold.” The use of these substances is driven by several factors, including easy access and affordability, as well as the belief that they will not be detected by standard drug tests. Despite the fact that cannabis has a long history of use and its side effects are relatively well-known, synthetic cannabinoids remain popular among some users. Prices for synthetic cannabinoids vary, with 10g selling for around $200 and 1kg selling for around $2500. The total content of synthetic cannabinoids in these products varies widely, with some containing as much as 202 mg/g of the compounds.

Legal Status

JWH-203 is a synthetic cannabinoid that is illegal in many countries due to its potential for abuse and harmful effects. In the United States, JWH-203 is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. Possession, sale, and distribution of JWH-203 can result in severe legal consequences, including imprisonment and fines.

Similarly, in China, JWH-203 is also a controlled substance as of October 2015. This decision was made by the Chinese government to curb the growing trend of synthetic drug abuse in the country.

It is important to note that the legal status of JWH-203 and other synthetic cannabinoids varies by country and can change over time. It is always recommended to stay up to date with local laws and regulations regarding drug use and possession to avoid any legal complications.

Synthesis of JWH-203 [13]

Synthetic cannabinoid oil

JWH 203 is a synthetic cannabinoid that was first synthesized in the mid-1990s by John W. Huffman, the chemist who is credited with discovering the first synthetic cannabinoids. The synthesis of JWH 203 involves several steps, including the reaction of a substituted indole with an acid anhydride to form an intermediate compound, which is then reacted with a substituted benzoyl chloride to form the final product.

The synthesis of JWH 203 is a complex process that requires specialized knowledge and equipment. The compound has been synthesized by several research groups using different methods, but the most common approach involves the use of multistep synthetic procedures. The synthetic process of JWH 203 has been the subject of much research due to its potential for abuse and its impact on public health.

The JWH 203 synthesis was successfully accomplished by following the protocol outlined in reference [13]. The process began with the synthesis of the starting material, which was prepared in accordance with the synthetic scheme depicted in Figure 4.

Figure 4. General scheme of JWH-203 synthesis
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JWH 203 is a chemical compound with potential therapeutic benefits due to its analgesic properties. As a member of the phenylacetylindole family, it acts as a cannabinoid agonist, stimulating the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. However, despite its potential therapeutic applications, JWH 203 is often found in illegal recreational drugs. Its appearance in synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice, Lava Red, or Jamaican Gold is concerning due to the potential dangers associated with their use. While JWH 203 may have some therapeutic benefits, caution and further research are necessary to fully understand the risks and potential complications of its recreational use.


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  2. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/44397500
  3. https://www.chemspider.com/Chemical-Structure.23256082.html
  4. https://commonchemistry.cas.org/detail?cas_rn=864445-54-5
  5. https://www.caymanchem.com/product/9000736
  6. https://www.musechem.com/product/jwh-203-r053860/
  7. https://www.usbio.net/biochemicals/015264/JWH-203/data-sheet
  8. https://usa.exportersindia.com/morgan-bulldog-farm/jwh-203-research-chemicals-minnesota-united-states-1915889.htm
  9. Gatch Michael B., Forster Michael J. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol-like discriminative stimulus effects of compounds commonly found in K2/Spice. Behavioural Pharmacology, 2014, 25, 8, pp. 750-757. DOI: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000093 https://journals.lww.com/behaviouralpharm/Abstract/2014/12000/_9_Tetrahydrocannabinol_like_discriminative.6.aspx
  10. Simolka K., Lindigkeit R., Schiebel HM. et al. Analysis of synthetic cannabinoids in “spice-like” herbal highs: snapshot of the German market in summer. Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 2012, 404, pp. 157–171. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-012-6122-4 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00216-012-6122-4
  11. Maren Hermanns-Clausen, Stefan Kneise Acute intoxication by synthetic cannabinoids – Four case reports. Drug Test. Analysis, 2013. DOI 10.1002/dta.1483 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bela-Szabo-3/publication/236930182_Acute_intoxication_by_synthetic_cannabinoids_-_Four_case_reports/links/59ef2949a6fdccd49285a030/Acute-intoxication-by-synthetic-cannabinoids-Four-case-reports.pdf
  12. JIANG Li-min, CHEN Xue-guo Simultaneous Analysis of Six Synthetic Cannabinoids in Hair by Liquid Chromatography-Electrospray Ion Trap Mass Spectrometry. Analysis and Testing Technology and Instruments, 2020, 26, 3, pp. 169-178. doi: 10.16495/j.1006-3757.2020.03.003 https://www.fxcsjsyyq.net/fxcsjsyyq/en/article/doi/10.16495/j.1006-3757.2020.03.003
  13. Giovanni Appendino, Alberto Minassia, Orazio Taglialatela-Scafati Recreational drug discovery: natural products as lead structures for the synthesis of smart drugs. Nat. Prod. Rep., 2014, 31, pp. 880-904. DOI: 10.1039/c4np00010b https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2014/NP/c4np00010b