The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, means anyone making or selling these items face the same legal penalties as those making and selling meth or marijuana. Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, sponsored one of those bills.
Synthetic marijuana is dried plant material sprayed with chemicals. The unregulated chemicals can cause everything from heart palpitations and vomiting to seizures, paranoia and suicidal tendencies. People using these types of drugs are addicted more quickly than to already regulated drugs.
Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz hailed the new laws but also expressed concern over a remaining loophole.
“I still worry about availability through the Internet,” he said, noting that a recent case was traced to sales of a drug called bath salts sold by a North Carolina retailer to an Ottawa County resident.
The new laws stop a pattern of manufacturers altering the products’ makeup to get around existing regulations. Once the laws go into effect, the Department of Community Health and Michigan Board of Pharmacy will have the authority to temporarily name a drug as a controlled substance to limit the spread of new combinations.
For Lynn Prins, a Zeeland mom who organized a protest to halt sales in her town, the news is “fantastic.
“It’s going to help get it off the shelves and out of our kids’ hands,” she said. “Now we just need police departments to step up and keep on top of it and keep it off the shelves.”
Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema, speaking by phone the National Sheriff’s Conference in Nashville, Tenn., said the law will limit the horrible consequences from the over-the-counter sales.
“Some of these devastating stories are just bizarre and sad,” he said, adding that other law enforcement officials at the convention have been talking about how their states are trying to address the same issues, which, he said, appear to be worse in more rural communities.
“This has been a major concern, not just for law enforcement but more significantly for the community for quite some time,” Rosema said. Dependency happens quickly, he said, and many instances in the recent rash of breaking-and-entering cases in Ottawa County were linked to this type of substance abuse.