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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 07/11/12
Synthetic drugs getting widespread
attention after new law
by CHRIS GRAYLocal community representatives have breathed a sigh of relief with the implementation of a ban on synthetic substances.
Observer Staff Writer
As of June 19, legislation was signed that classifies K2, Spice and other drugs as schedule 1 drugs, making them illegal to sell and use.
K2 and similar products are considered a synthetic marijuana. It is a potpourri-like substance that is sprayed with chemicals that mimic those found in marijuana.
The danger comes from those chemicals not being regulated, resulting in side effects like increased heart rate, hallucinations, vomiting and even seizures.
Before the bans, producers could skirt around laws and continue to sell the product by changing around the chemicals used on the drug.
Some communities didn't bother waiting for the state to take action. Macomb County implemented an emergency order to halt the sales of synthetic marijuana in early June. The order permitted the confiscation of products like K2 and to slap sellers with a $200 fine and up to six months in jail.
The law also allows the Department of Community Health and the Michigan Board of Pharmacy to designate a drug as a "controlled substance." This will mean a more rapid response to something that is considered a dangerous drug.
With the new legislation, law enforcement has a new tool when it comes to busting sellers or abusers. Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the law now permits his deputies to take action on a growing concern.
"K2's been a problem for us for a long time, we've seen increased use," he said.
He said the substance has been abused by people since it wouldn't show up on drug tests, but he said it'll be a matter of asking testers to look for the drug.
Judge Denis LeDuc of the 42-1 District Court said he has seen about six to eight cases in the last year involving K2, but hasn't had one since the ban went into effect.
"We're realistic, we know it's not going to completely eliminate the use of it," he said. "We're not interested in putting people in jail, but (the law) does give me leverage to get them to the treatment they need."
LeDuc, also a member of the Northwest Macomb Prevention Coalition, said he was pleased that something the coalition has tried educating residents about has received this amount of attention.
Joe Thayer, prevention specialist at the Romeo branch of Macomb Family Services, said the speed in which lawmakers worked to ban the substance was amazing.
"In regards to K2, it was so devastating to the people that were affected by it and actually heard about it that people were willing to step up and do something about it," he said.
He said it also reflects a change in attitude among adults. He said the law reveals people are having less of a "kids will be kids" position when it comes to drug use.
"People have become desensitized to all the messages out there, and for this to come along was a wake-up call for people out there," he said.
Thayer said therapists at Macomb Family Services have indicated there is K2 use in the local area, but not to the extent of other communities.
"Any drug in metropolitan areas can be found in any rural area," he said.
Nancy Campbell, superintendent for Romeo Community Schools, said the district has seen cases of students using K2 as well.
"We've had students that had reactions to K2, and we worked with the parents on those cases," she said.
She said the district works within the code of conduct to address drug use, and lauded lawmakers for providing an extra step in keeping students safe.
"It's praiseworthy, I never dreamed it would happen this fast," she said.