Township board passes ordinance, resolution on synthetic drugs

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 13, 2012

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Following statements and presentations from law enforcement and people whose lives have been impacted by synthetic drug abuse, one move wasn’t enough for the Shelby Township Board of Trustees.

After pleas from the public, the board unanimously voted June 5 to adopt an ordinance restricting the sale and possession of synthetic drugs, such as Spice, K2 and bath salts, and a resolution supporting county and state actions regulating the substances.

“I want to congratulate all of you; this is definitely a team effort,” Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis said to the public at the meeting.

The ordinance prohibits “the possession or sale of AM cannabinoids, CP cannabinoids, JWH cannabinoids and HU cannabinoids, a plant material laced with chemicals, sold as herbal incense products, which are not approved for human consumption by the FDA and making such products unlawful to possess and or traffic; and regulating the sale of similar and otherwise unregulated products.”

And the resolution “banning various cannabinoids” supports a recent move by Macomb County officials to make it a health code violation to sell “synthetic cannabinoids and all substances commonly known as ‘synthetic marijuana.’”

“Shelby supports the actions of the Macomb County Health Department, as well as any current or future legislation proposed by the state of Michigan to prohibit the sale, marketing, distribution and use of AM cannabinoids, CP cannabinoids, JWH cannabinoids and HU cannabinoids,” Township Clerk Stanley Grot said while reading from the resolution.

Initially, the board was set to concur with the guidance of Township Attorney Rob Huth and Police Chief Roland Woelkers to forgo an ordinance and pass the resolution alone because of a belief that a local ordinance might be at odds with official wording of eventual state policy.

Huth and Woelkers advised that the prosecution of offenders under state law affords law enforcement and prosecutors more resources in fighting potential challenges to the law.

But sentiment from the public urged the board to do more, and resident Ed Ferrara pointed out that the Macomb County health code violation did not cover possession and suggested that the township adopt an ordinance that made possession of the substances illegal.

“The county didn’t address the issue of possession, and I would absolutely be in favor of having that tool,” Woelkers said.

Utica Police Chief David Faber said he would present a similar ordinance to his city council June 12, after press time. Faber confirmed his officers ensured Utica stores were not selling any synthetic drugs.

Along with Ferrara’s suggestion of a law against possession, he also proposed that the ordinance include a “sunset clause” that would ensure it is not at odds with state law.

“If the state law takes effect, we will rely on the state law,” Huth said, explaining the effect of the sunset clause that became Section 7 of the ordinance.

That clause may render the Shelby Township ordinance moot, as the state Legislature was working to get laws passed as early as June 14, and the Shelby Township ordinance can not take effect until it is ratified by a vote at the June 19 Board of Trustees meeting.

“Last year, the Legislature outlawed something called bath salts, and now it’s something else,” State Rep. Pete Lund said of the problems the law has faced curtailing synthetic drug abuse and enacting a law that “isn’t something that just sounds good, but something that really does something.”

“The problem is, what will be next?” Lund added. “If we outlaw K2, they’ll come out with K3. We have to make sure the government has the ability to outlaw other ‘spices’ to stop this from happening again and again.”

Lund said that he was hopeful four bills would work their way through the Legislature to the desk and eventual signature of Gov. Rick Snyder by June 14.

In the meantime, Lund urged members of the community not to wait for the state or township laws but to make use of measures currently in place, such as those instituted by the county.

“Call the prosecutor and police. Call someone and tell them (stores) were selling it,” Lund said. “And stop buying anything from them. Stop buying gas or Coke. Punish them where it counts to them, in their pocketbooks.