Michigan House approves bill cracking down on synthetic drugs, including cannabinoids
The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a version of Senate Bill 1082 that will allow law enforcement to take action to remove synthetic drugs - including cannabinoids like K2 and Spice , as well as "bath salts" - from store shelves.
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
The bill is a part of a broader package that will allow the state to quickly identify and eliminate such “mind-altering products” by temporarily classifying them as a controlled substance, according to a news release from the office of State Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township.
If signed into law, measure would take effect July 1, and would allow local law enforcement and public health officials to take action against businesses that sell a broad definition of synthetic cannabinoids -- like K2 and Spice -- and synthetic cathinones, commonly known as "bath salts."
Violating the act would result in a felony charge, punishable by up to four years in prison and/or maximum fine of $20,000.
As several minor changes were made to the Senate bill, it will go back to the Senate for concurrence before being passed to Gov. Rick Snyder for a signature.
Ouimet said the bill -- which is an amendment to the Michigan Public Health code -- was mainly in response to the proactive efforts taken by communities across the state to ban the synthetic designer drugs.
"It's deplorable that young people who can't buy cigarettes can walk into a convenience store or gas station and purchase synthetic drugs," said Ouimet in a news release. “These products are incredibly dangerous, and we must make a concerted effort to get them off the market as quickly as possible."
Synthetic cannabinoids have become the focus of media attention after they were linked to several high-profile crimes in Michigan, which has spurned many communities across the state to take action to ban the substances themselves.
"Washtenaw County business owners, officials and parents must continue to work together to protect our communities, and especially our young people," Ouimet said in the release. "The more we raise public awareness about how unsafe these drugs are, the less likely they will impact our communities."
At a Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday night, public health department officials announced the county's plan to address the sale of synthetic cannabinoids through a decal program that would reward businesses that didn't sell the drugs and threaten litigation against those that chose to continue selling.
Details of the county's plan were to be released Thursday afternoon, said Richard Fleece, public health officer for the county.
Synthetic cannabinoids on the market are a blend of leafy herbs and spices sprayed with a synthetic chemical that gives a high.
The drugs are sold over-the-counter in party stores, gas stations and smoke shops and are known by names like incense, herbal and potpourri or by brand, like K2.
Physical side effects from synthetic marijuana use include loss of control, seizures, hallucinations, vomiting and elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
The most dangerous part about synthetic cannabinoids is that their effects are relatively undocumented, said Dr. Kirk Brower, a professor of psychiatry and the director of Addiction Treatment Services at the University of Michigan Health System.
Brower said he’s treated several psychiatric patients who have used synthetic cannabinoids who reported having hallucinations, difficulty talking paranoid delusions and persistent problems.
While there is long-standing research on the effects of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, LSD and methamphetamines, synthetic designer drugs are an uncharted territory.
The vast majority of scientific articles concerning synthetic cannabinoids are about how to test for the substance, not about its long-term effects, Brower said.
“I think the most important message here that people that use these drugs are acting as guinea pigs in a dangerous science experiment,” Brower said. “I would never tell someone to use marijuana, but we have decades of research on its effects.”
Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.