signed bills outlawing K2, Spice, other synthetic drugs

It’s official: Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills this afternoon banning K2, Spice and similar synthetic drugs sold in Michigan.

The bills crack down on chemicals used to make the products and give state health officials power to temporarily ban drugs deemed an imminent danger to people’s health.

“We’re all elated,” said Lisa Kelly, the mother of a 20-year-old son addicted to the substance.

Kelly, 54, of Waterford spoke at forums geared at educating the public about the dangers of the products and worked to get them off stores shelves before the laws passed. She plans to continue her crusade by alerting police to places where the products are sold when she finds out.

“I’m a whistle-blower,” she said Tuesday.

One of the four bills signed into law today updates the list of chemicals used to make synthetic drugs such as K2, Spice and substances sometimes referred to as bath salts. The law, which makes them illegal to possess or sell, takes effect July 1.

The other three bills Snyder signed go into effect immediately and give the state power to ban a substance temporarily if the director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, working with the Michigan Board of Pharmacy, deems it an imminent danger to people’s health.

“If the director of the Department of Community Health determines that something’s very dangerous, she can call the Board of Pharmacy in,” said state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, a bill sponsor. “Within two weeks the product should be off the shelf.”

In 2010, Michigan passed legislation prohibiting substances commonly used to make the drugs, but manufacturers skirted the law by changing the formulas, officials said. Legislators say the new law gives officials the ability to respond quicker when formulas are changed.

Police officials, judges and parents praised the new laws, but some say there is still more work to do.

“We are far from done,” Waterford 51st District Judge Jodi Debbrecht said. “We need prevention and rehabilitation services right now that are specific to synthetics.”

She said the drugs created a new generation of addicts that need treatment and said those addicted to them will turn to the black market to get the products.

Synthetic marijuana, which experts warn can have different effects than marijuana, has been blamed for psychotic behavior and a growing number of hospitalizations in Michigan — a reported 185 through May.

It is plant material sprayed with chemicals that can mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Side effects include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, seizures, paranoia, loss of physical control and hallucinations, health experts said.

The products are sold under various names, such as K2 and Spice. They were sold at gas stations, retail stores and on the Internet. They often are marked “not intended for human consumption” and are sold as incense or potpourri.

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