West BloomfieldMay 31, 2012
West Bloomfield considers Spice ban
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
In the wake of news reports about teen substance abuse, some township officials want to pull a drug called Spice off the rack.
According to Township Clerk Cathy Shaughnessy, the Board of Trustees will to look at a proposal at its June 4 meeting to prohibit the possession and sale of Spice in the township.
Spice is a form of synthetic marijuana that also goes by the name “K2.” Shaughnessy said township action is needed because the Michigan Legislature has not yet taken sufficient steps to stop the drug’s spread to minors.
The drug, often sold as herbal incense or potpourri, can be found in some gas stations for sale, she said.
“We have witnessed too many local tragedies involving kids using this dangerous drug,” Shaughnessy said in a statement. “It is important that we at least make it more difficult for minors to obtain this substance while the Michigan Legislature considers a statewide ban.”
The drug has been mentioned in a couple of recent Oakland County homicide cases. Tucker Cipriano — who with a friend faces murder, assault and robbery charges for an attack on Cipriano’s family that left father Robert Cipriano dead, and mother Rose and brother Salvatore, 17, critically injured — allegedly used the drug.
In a West Bloomfield murder case involving a grandmother reportedly shooting her own grandson in May, defense attorney Jerome Sabbota said he would explore whether the slain 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman had been abusing the drug before his death.
Police have also said that Spice played a role in the death of an 18-year-old Bloomfield Township resident who was found dead May 26, though toxicology test findings were still pending.
According to a fact sheet from the Michigan Department of Community Health, 224 instances of synthetic marijuana exposure were discovered in Michigan in 2011. Experts say smoking the drug can cause hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, drowsiness, paranoia, tremors, loss of physical control, and higher blood pressure and heart rates.
Shaughnessy said the township board could adopt an emergency ordinance that would make possessing or selling Spice a misdemeanor with a punishment of a $500 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.
She said she and Trustee Howard Rosenberg are spearheading the effort to educate parents, kids, merchants and the community about the drug’s dangers. She believed that an awareness campaign could compel the state to aggressively confront the issue.
“My knowledge of this substance is extremely recent,” she said. “I have to believe that most people out there have no idea. … It’s bad enough that we have illegal drug use. To just have something out there on the shelves that appears to be more dangerous than anything recent that I have heard of … is frightening.”
Trustee Larry Brown agreed that the drug should be outlawed. “It is a danger to the health, safety and welfare of our community. It is a public health risk. It is a link to criminal behavior,” he said. “It is a very dangerous, legal drug that needs to be taken off the market. It has to be controlled.”
Trustee Steven Kaplan, a Wayne County assistant prosecuting attorney, said the state Legislature already banned seven artificial marijuana chemicals in 2010, but he said the manufacturers seem to be modifying the ingredients to skirt the laws.
While he said he supports a township measure to ban synthetic marijuana in West Bloomfield, he said he hopes to persuade the board to refrain from enacting a grace period to gas station owners, party shops or other merchants who sell the drug.
Kaplan also said he hopes the township asks the state to take further action because the latter has the power to impose stiffer penalties, such as making Spice possession a four-year felony and selling it a 20-year one.
“The synthetic marijuana seems to be as pernicious as cocaine or heroin,” he said.
West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton said he has not yet seen a draft of the proposed ordinance, but he acknowledged that some municipalities have urged the state to do more to address the proliferation of Spice, and he said he would enforce any ordinance that the township board passes.
He also said that he is working with the Greater West Bloomfield Community Coalition to help educate high school students about the drug to stop abuse. He said community members can ask Spice vendors to stop carrying the product.
“Local law enforcement is just one tool,” he said.
The full text of the emergency proposal was not available online by press time, and the Beacon went to press before the June 4 township board meeting. Visit www.candgnews.com for further updates.
You can reach West Bloomfield Town Hall at www.wbtwp.com or by calling (248) 451-4800.
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