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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 03/05/14
SET members say drugs
are a local problem
by CHRIS GRAYMembers of the Macomb County Sheriff's Special Enforcement Team (SET) made it clear that local communities are not immune to drug problems.
Observer Staff Writer
"We're finding heroin up here," said Lt. Dave Daniels. "If you have it in your mind that because I live in northern Macomb County I shouldn't be exposed to these types of problems, unfortunately these problems do exist."
Two SET members spoke with the Northwest Macomb Prevention Coalition on Feb. 13, a group made up of prevention workers, school administrators, parents and others that aim to educate local communities about drug and alcohol issues.
Daniels said one of the biggest problems in the area is medical marijuana growing operations. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 allows caretakers to grow plants for themselves and five patients for a total of 72 plants. Daniels said there are some medical benefits to medical marijuana, but the problem is the overage.
"When you harvest that much marijuana, you are perpetually going to be over," he said.
Det. Justin Locke is an undercover member of SET. He said the over-abundance problem happens in northern Macomb County since there is more land and opportunity for growing operations.
"There are farmers that, rather than doing beans and corn, they're just moving over to marijuana and putting that in their greenhouses," he said.
He said on top of more marijuana, there are higher levels of THC, cannabis' psychoactive chemical, due to refined growing techniques, so they're able to sell any overages for profit.
"They're taking those (overages) and selling them to kids and you'll see it leak into your schools," he said.
Higher THC also lends itself to a rising trend known as "dabbing," which uses marijuana concentrates like oil or wax to inhale pure THC. It provides an intense high, but extracting THC can be a dangerous process that SET members said have resulted in explosions.
When asked if the Right to Farm Act allows for growing operations, Locke said the issue is whether marijuana is considered a medicine or crop.
Locke said prescription drugs are becoming a go-to drug, as it doesn't carry the stigmas of other narcotics and is more readily available. Pills like Vicodin, Oxycontin and Adderall are the most popular.
"Kids are going into their parent's medicine cabinet in the morning and grabbing one or two," he said.
Since some of the pills are opiate-based, Locke said the next step is trying heroin due to being a pure opiate and cheaper than pills. Locke said heroin bindles are typically $10-$20 and are usually accessed by going to areas like Detroit.
"What we're seeing right now is the pills and the kids are gradually graduating into heroin, snorting it and now we're starting to see them shoot it," he said.
Locke said withdrawal from heroin has been described as a worse version of the flu, so instead of coming down, users will opt to take more of the drug, possibly leading to overdoses.
Death tolls related to drugs match what SET is finding. The Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office reports the number of deaths in the county with high levels of prescription or illegal drugs as a factor was more than 400 in 2013.
"This isn't just touching lower-class, it's the middle-class, upper-class<this is going to be touching all of our kids," Locke said.
Judge Denis LeDuc of the 42-1 District Court in Romeo said when he sees youths in his court, it's not always apparent by appearances that they're abusing drugs.
"They look like our kids, they look like they could be walking down the streets of Romeo or Richmond or Armada," he said. "This is not somebody . . . looking like a bum."
He said he sees heroin related cases 2-3 times a week. For marijuana, LeDuc keeps cardholders from using the drug while on bond. Some of the confiscated cards have birth years like 1991 and 1987.
Daniels said parents need to be able to talk with their children about drugs, and to keep an eye on their social media accounts for any signs of trouble.
"No family is exempt to this problem," Daniels said.