Shelby TownshipJune 26, 2012
Father’s fight results in state ban on synthetic drugs
By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer
June 19 marked the end of a Father’s Day weekend unlike any other for Bill Miskokomon.
Miskokomon has spent much of the past year waging a personal battle against synthetic drugs, commonly known as K2 or Spice, after he found his son was addicted to the substances.
So standing alongside Gov. Rick Snyder after he signed state laws banning the drugs was a greater present than he could have hoped for.
“I went out on a limb and told my son I’d have it outlawed in the state of Michigan, but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would get to this point,” Miskokomon said of joining Snyder and lawmakers at the laws’ signing.
Miskokomon said the early-morning trek from his home in Shelby Township to Lansing was made all the easier knowing his work to ensure other youngsters hooked on synthetic drugs might get the same opportunity for recovery as his son.
“Each conversation I’m having with him now is much better than the one previous,“ Miskokomon said of communicating with his son, who is in a rehabilitation center in South Dakota.
“He left a wonderful voicemail for Father’s Day. In the past, he would just blown me off, but he’s very clear, and I think he’s seeing the benefit of being out there.”
The laws, formally called Public Acts 180-183, added several “synthetic cannabinoids” and “synthetic cathinones” to the list of schedule 1 controlled substances, which includes drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD.
“They put 10 to 12 new variations in the statute directly,” said Bruce Timmons, legal counsel and policy advisor to the House Republican Policy Office, of the legislation and the new synthetic substances added to schedule 1 through Public Act 183.
The laws also allow for the director of the Department of Community Health and the Board of Pharmacy to more quickly add drugs to the controlled substances schedules.
“If it’s a totally different designer drug, and the director of the Department of Community Health finds out something is out there, the director has the power to make a finding to the pharmacy board, and the board can adopt emergency rules,” Timmons said.
Under Public Act 181, “emergency rules” allow the Department of Community Health and Board of Pharmacy to place a substance on a controlled substance schedule without the public hearings that were previously required.
Public Act 182 outlines how “emergency rules” can be adopted once the Department of Community Health director rules a substance is an imminent danger or leading to “a condition or practice that could reasonably be expected to cause death, disease, or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of the danger can be eliminated through enforcement procedures otherwise provided.”
Timmons said the new laws could have helped stem the damage synthetic drugs caused as reports of abuse spread from the Upper Peninsula, where substances came from Wisconsin and Illinois, to the rest of the state over the course of several years.
He said the new “emergency rules” would have allowed the state to trigger the new laws’ mechanics and place the synthetic drugs on the controlled substance list once reports of their abuse came in from local officials.
Miskokomon was invited to the signing of the laws because the awareness of the effects synthetics were having on communities was raised through grassroots efforts like his own.
“Once they saw the families at the protest, that really got the picture that this problem is bigger than they thought,” Miskokomon said of the awareness raised by the protest he organized June 2 outside of the Citgo gas station and Woodstock Tobacco and More on Van Dyke Avenue in Shelby Township where his son purchased synthetic drugs.
“I think that’s what got them moving and helped gain the support of all the politicians and legislators. But I’m a firm believer that the government is not going to change anything. It’s up to us in the community.”
The laws take effect July 1, and Michigan State Police set up a contact line, (855) MICH-TIP, for citizens to report anyone selling synthetic drugs.
State Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, said the feat of getting so much legislation approved so quickly was no small achievement.
“It’s the type of problem a community can unite behind,” Lund said of the effort to pass the laws, some of which moved from the Legislature’s committees to the governor’s desk in less than six months.
“(The ban’s supporters) were passionate, but they didn’t lose control. It’s also comforting to see the way government worked together on this from the state to the county to the local governments.”
Miskokomon said one of the hardest parts of his fight was overcoming his own desires to remain anonymous before he realized he had to step forward and do something about the problem facing his family and community.
“You can’t be afraid to talk about it,” Miskokomon said. “We’re in so much denial that this problem doesn’t exist that we’re more embarrassed, and we don’t want to be judged.
“But once I came out a talked about it, there were people coming out of the woodwork talking to me about it and their problems. It was amazing how many people out there came out and talked about it.”
Miskokomon channeled that support in the community to help move the legislation through the state government via his Facebook page, wwww.facebook.com/ShelbyBanK2.
“Once I knew where the bill was sitting, I made it very easy, I provided them with an email address and a phone number to call,” Miskokomon said of his practice of alerting his supporters which legislators needed to be called to move the bills forward.
“It worked great. (Legislators) would call me and ask, ‘Can you please take my name off there, we’re getting so many calls.’ We put enough pressure on them to make a point.”
And he said it was the same passion that drove him forward in the face of opposition or disinterest.
“Don’t stop at ‘no,’ and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Miskokomon said. “If you feel confident and have passion about a subject, you can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
“I had a lot of people tell me ‘no’ or tell me they couldn’t help me, but I didn’t stop at that. I was going to hold someone accountable and fight until I could bring justice to it.”
And he said he plans to use that focus and drive to tackle the next problem posed by synthetic drug abuse — rehabilitation.
“We’re reaching out together to the community to help us support to help educate these kids,” Miskokomon said of his plans to start a nonprofit to help those addicted to synthetic drugs.
“It’s going to take each and every one of us to help. We cannot rely on government to fix this problem. We can’t just ban something and not have resources to help these people because they’re just going to turn to another drug and the next high could be anything.”
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