TroyJune 27, 2012
Police crack down on merchants selling K2, Spice, bath salts
By Brad D. Bates and Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writers
Starting July 1, Troy police will aggressively enforce the ban on synthetic marijuana and bath salts after state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder passed legislation banning the substances earlier this month.
Herbal incense marketed as K2, Spice and other names, is smoked, though it is labeled as incense or potpourri and “not for human consumption.” Smoking it can cause seizures, extreme rapid heartbeat, loss of control of bodily functions, vomiting, aggression, hallucinations and psychotic episodes, according to local medical experts.
Bath salts are snorted or eaten and act as a stimulant. Effects include chest pain, death, suicidal thoughts, racing heart and violent behavior. The drugs are undetectable in standard drug screen tests — people must ask for one specifically for those drugs.
Both substances are cheap, sold in packets for as little as $11. They could be purchased online or at local smoke shops and gas stations without age restrictions. They were completely legal — until now.
The laws, formally called Public Acts 180-183, added several “synthetic cannabinoids” and “synthetic cathinones” to the list of Schedule I controlled substances, which includes such drugs as Ecstasy and LSD.
“They put 10 to 12 new variations in the statute directly,” said Bruce Timmons, legal counsel and policy adviser to the House Republican Policy Office, of the legislation and the new synthetic substances added to Schedule I drugs 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 law’s mechanics and place the synthetic drugs on the controlled substance list once reports of their abuse came in from local officials.
The U.S. House passed a federal ban on bath salts, K2 and Spice June 20 as part of the Federal Drug Administration’s User Fee Reauthorization Bill. It now goes to the U.S. Senate, and upon approval, to President Barack Obama for his signature.
“I’m very encouraged that people have come together across Southeast Michigan to oppose K2, but without this federal ban in place, it would only have been a matter of time before these dangerous chemicals found their way across state lines and back into our schools, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said in a prepared statement. “And, to make sure we don’t end up playing a game of cat and mouse, I worked to make sure the DEA has new authorities to go after modified versions of K2 and synthetic drugs, so they don’t appear back on our store shelves.”
The Troy Police Department’s directed patrol division and community services section visited 42 establishments June 7 and secured pledges from 39 of them not to sell K2 or other synthetic drug products, including bath salts. Those establishments that agreed received a placard from the Troy Police Department to place in their window. Three of the 42 establishments were unable to make the pledge on June 7 because of corporate rules, and police plan to follow up with them to secure the pledge.
Police noted that not one of the 42 establishments sold the products at the time of the visit.
Troy Police Capt. Gerry Scherlinck said Troy merchants should expect compliance checks similar to liquor license enforcement checks, during which plainclothes officers and student enforcement aides under age 21 go into the stores in an attempt to purchase alcohol.
“There’s a high probability that businesses will be visited by nonuniform personnel,” Scherlinck said.
“We’re very impressed with the merchants who have complied voluntarily,” he noted. “We will take enforcement action if needed.”
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