Michigan state Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn) on Wednesday introduced legislation aimed to combat the sale and use of synthetic marijuana in the state of Michigan, according to Darany's office.
The legislation–House Bill 5709–would require the Michigan Department of Community Health in cooperation with the State Police to analyze the content of the herbal mixtures and create a written report of its findings.
The bill concerns rampant sale and use of the synthetic drug known commonly as K2 or Spice. The drug has stirred up opposition in Michigan–especially recently, with several highly publicized cases of violence or health problems resulting in teens who used the drug. The most recent incident being , who police said died of an overdose of the synthetic drug over the weekend.
Several groups in Michigan––have organized protests against the sale of K2 in their cities, as well as boycotts of businesses that do sell it.
Darany made note of the drug's use among Dearborn teens.
"Unfortunately, here in Dearborn, we are familiar with the devastating effects caused by the use of synthetic drugs like K 2 or Spice," Darany said. "However, this problem is not limited to our community. We have seen a surge in the sale and use of these dangerous substances throughout the state and it is imperative that we provide the necessary tools to help get these extremely hazardous drugs out of our communities."
Sarah Parker–a program coordinator at the Plymouth-based Michigan Growth Works, which oversees juvenile probation cases in western Wayne County–concurred that use of K2 or Spice is growing.
“It’s very concerning in terms of youth using it,” said Parker, who added that the problem has escalated within the past six months. “We don’t know what the long-term effects are.”
Under a law passed by the state legislature in September 2010, the possession or use of certain synthetic drugs was banned in Michigan. Earlier this year, there was also legislation introduced that would update Michigan's law so that the penalties for the sale and use of certain synthetic drugs would be similar to that for other Schedule 1 controlled substances.
However, manufacturers have been able to get around the law by simply changing the chemical makeup and the ingredients in the herbal mixtures and synthetic cannabinoids. Requiring a detailed analysis and report of these substances will be a useful tool in regulating the sale and use of these materials.
Darany said he believes there is bipartisan support for the HB 5709.
"It is no secret that these synthetic drugs have been marketed to our teens and young people," Darany said. "And because these chemical cocktails consistently undergo changes, these substances are often just as dangerous, if not more so, than the drugs they intend to copy. It is crucial in the fight against these substances that we understand the makeup of these mixtures and their major physiological and psychological implications.
"My bill attacks the problem with this issue in mind," he added. "It will be an essential piece of the puzzle and will compliment changes already in play for the current state law. This legislation is an important step in helping our law enforcement officials protect our families and communities."