Stores comply with law on K2, Spice

Looking for K2?

Law enforcement officials said you probably won’t find the drug at area gas stations, smoke shops and party stores that once had packages of synthetic marijuana displayed on their shelves.

As of Sunday, Michigan State Police had the authority to remove the drugs from businesses that hadn’t yet done so. The measure was a part of a package of bills Gov. Rick Snyder signed June 19 outlawing synthetic marijuana.

Police in Port Huron and Marysville said K2 was off stores’ shelves before Snyder signed the legislation targeting synthetic cannabinoids and products sometimes referred to as bath salts.

Port Huron police Capt. Jeff Baker said police stopped by stores in the city in early June with letters asking businesses to not sell the substances. Baker said the stores police dealt with had removed synthetic marijuana from their shelves even before that time.

Baker said he’s not aware of any synthetic marijuana being sold in stores in the city. Public outcry against the drug likely pushed stores to comply voluntarily to stop selling the drug.

“I can’t speak of a store in town that refused to remove the K2,” Baker said. “… The public outcry was too much.”

Under Michigan’s new laws, anyone caught manufacturing, distributing or selling the substances can be charged with a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. For possession, the maximum sentence is two years. Anyone convicted of using synthetic marijuana could be hit with a misdemeanor that carries a possible one-year jail sentence.

The synthetic drugs known as K2, Spice and bath salts gained lawmakers’ attention after a string of incidents in southeast Michigan. K2 and Spice are blends of dried herbs sprayed with marijuana-like chemicals that people smoke to get high. So-called bath salts are synthetic chemical cousins of methamphetamine.

The St. Clair County Health Department issued an imminent danger order prohibiting the sale and distribution of synthetic drugs June 6 after protests outside a Port Huron gas station that previously had sold the products.

Baker said uniformed and plainclothes officers continue to do spot checks at stores in the area. Those checked have been in compliance with the law.

Sgt. Mat King with the St. Clair County Drug Task Force said undercover officers in his agency also have not found K2 or bath salts when they have attempted to buy the products at several county stores. He said the task force is continuing to enforce the law.

King said K2 had become a problem in the area. He said people were smoking it on the streets and while driving. Some smoked it because they were on probation and thought it wouldn’t pop up on a drug test. Those who normally smoked marijuana started smoking K2, and vice versa.

Some people officers have talked to also experienced withdrawal after not using the drug, King said.

Having K2 off stores’ shelves is a good thing, he said.

“It stops it from being readily available to people who may not otherwise have outlets to get drugs — especially young people,” King said.

Marysville Police Chief Tim Buelow said police are not aware of and have not had any reports of stores in Marysville selling synthetic marijuana. Staff members at one Marysville store, Smoker’s Only, told Buelow they had been carrying the substance but stopped selling it months ago because they became aware of its negative effects.

Chesterfield Township police Detective Sgt. Deron Myers said uniformed and undercover officers stopped by stores in the township early this week to check compliance with the law. A month or so ago, smoke shops and gas stations had synthetic marijuana prominently displayed on their windows and counters. Party stores also sold the product.

But now, there isn’t a trace of the substance in stores.

Myers said many business owners seemed relieved that they no longer have to decide whether to sell the product of lose out on profiting from it.

“They were relieved,” Myers said. “They know there was no good to come from it.”

He said the substance certainly isn’t gone from the streets of his township. People still want the drug and others want to profit off it, he said.

“We’re not ignorant,” Myers said. “It is most likely still out there, and there is someone as we speak trying to make money off of it.”

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