Who’s selling synthetic marijuana in your community?
The Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition looked into that question, surveying dozens of local businesses to see if they’re selling “K2” or “Spice,” the most popular brand names for synthetic marijuana.
Of the 37 businesses surveyed, five sold the legal substance — and only one of them is located in Birmingham: The Jungle Room on Pierce Street.
“It’s gratifying to see so many businesses aren’t selling it,” Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt said Friday. “I think it shows a commitment on their part toward safety and responsible citizenship. This is very dangerous stuff because you have no idea what you’re getting.”
Carol Mastroianni, executive director of the community coalition, said many people mistakenly believe it has the same effect as marijuana — when in fact it’s proving to be far more dangerous.
“People keep linking ‘K2′ and ‘Spice’ to marijuana, but it’s much more hallucinogenic,” she said. “The only similarity is you smoke them.”
Because the actual ingredients in the substance keep changing to make it legal, doctors aren’t always sure how to treat a patient who used the substance.
“We have no idea on the long-term effects on the brain,” Mastroianni said. “Unfortunately, everyone using it right now are the guinea pigs.”
On Friday, a person at The Jungle Room in Birmingham said the store was not selling the substance. The person, however, wasn’t able to say whether the shop decided to no longer sell the substance, or if they simply ran out of it.
“As of today, there’s none for sale,” the person said.
The survey also listed the following businesses where “K2” or “Spice” is sold:
- The Amoco gas station on Southfield Road in Beverly Hills.
- The BP gas station at 13 Mile and Southfield in Beverly Hills.
- The Mobil gas station near Union Lake and Commerce in West Bloomfield.
- Smokers Outlet on Union Lake Road in Commerce Township.Contacted Friday, an employee at Mobil said the station isn’t selling the substance. No one answered repeated phone calls to Smokers Outlet on Friday. The other businesses acknowledged they are selling it.
Tucker Cipriano, 19, and Mitchell Young, 20, the two suspects accused of killing Cipriano’s father and critically injuring his mother and one of his brothers, admitted they smoked “Spice” on the night of the attacks.
Jonathan Hoffman, 17, who was allegedly gunned down and killed by his grandmother, also tested positive for synthetic marijuana.
Diane D’Agostini, a 48th district judge and board member of the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition, said so far her courtroom has not heard any cases involving someone on one of the synthetic substances. But she echoed the fear that teenagers are smoking the substance without a clear understanding of the consequences.
“From what I’ve learned, this is 10 times more potent than marijuana,” D’Agostini said Friday. “We’re very fortunate the coalitions are addressing these issues. We’re talking about a substance that’s very addictive and can cause hallucinations, vomiting and heart attacks. It’s frightening.”
Use of synthetic marijuana is alarmingly high. According to data from the 2011 Monitoring the Future survey of youth drug-use trends, 11.4 percent of 12th graders used “Spice” or “K2” in the past year, making it the second most commonly used illicit drug among high school seniors.
The substance is sold in several packages, starting out for as little as $10. It’s not hard to find.
Mastroianni said the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition networks with 13 other coalitions in Oakland County through the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities to follow new trends in the various communities. The concerns over the substance are nationwide.
On Wednesday, Jack Claypoole, Associate Deputy Director & Drug Free Community Administrator at the White House office of National Drug Control Policy, visited with several coalitions in Michigan and Ohio to talk about the trends and dangers of synthetics, including “K2” and “Spice.” In July, a national conference of coalitions are meeting in Tennessee and planning to address this issue among other substances of concern.
“We want to keep our kids safe and healthy,” Mastroianni said. “It’s from the grassroots level that things get done. Once people are motivated and educated, things can happen.”
For now, it’s a matter of convincing local stores and gas stations that selling the synthetic marijuana is bad business. Mastroianni admits it won’t be easy.
“One of the coalitions went out and talked to businesses in their community. Then they sent in an older adult to one of the places, and the business said they weren’t selling it,” she said. “However, the coalition then sent in a younger person and magically they were able to buy it. Many of these places tell you they make too much money off it.”