Pubdate: Sat, 24 Dec 2011 Source: Oakland Press, The (MI) Copyright: 2011 The Oakland Press Contact: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2114 Author: Dustin Blitchok STATE LOOKS TO PLACE BAN ON SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA A marijuana substitute has gotten the attention of police and school officials in Holly after two local teenagers landed in the emergency room after smoking it. The substances are sold as incense or potpourri in tobacco shops, head shops, party stores and even gas stations. In one incident, a 14-year old girl from Hartland came to a Friday night event at the First Baptist Church of Holly after smoking incense. Pastor Ed Pedley said the teen had a racing pulse, numb tongue, and was behaving erratically. He said the girl was taken to Genesys Regional Medical Center and later released. In a second mishap, a 17-year old male was found in Holly "facedown in the mud," having passed out after smoking incense, said Assistant Fire Chief Paul Schimmeyer. After being outside in what Schimmeyer described as 25-degree weather, the teen was taken to Genesys with hypothermia. "We're seeing a fair number of these cases nowadays," said Dr. Stuart Etengoff, an emergency room physician at Genesys Regional Medical Center. He said that K2 and similar substances cause anxiety and nervousness at a higher rate than what is seen with marijuana, and there are case reports of seizures and heart attacks linked to the smoking of synthetics. Etengoff said that patients who come to the emergency room after smoking synthetics are reassured as the effect wears off, and they are treated with a sedative if needed. He said the ingredients now used in synthetic marijuana were discovered in research at the University of North Carolina, and that the information was then used by others to make the substances commercially. Schimmeyer, Holly Police Chief Elena Danishevskaya and representatives from the Holly Community Coalition and Holly Area Schools met last week to discuss the problem of teens smoking legal synthetic substances. Susan Papple, the Community Coalition's project coordinator, passed around a package of mango-scented Demon incense that she was able to purchase for $11.99 at a nearby party store. Incense is seized and taken to the police department when found in a school setting, said Holly High School police liaison Matt Hogan. "The school treats it as a look-alike drug," he said. Holly Middle School principal Linda Skrzynski said repercussions for students found with synthetic marijuana could include "suspension time, even as much as a (disciplinary) hearing, or expulsion if they're distributing (it)." "People have no idea what they're smoking - there's no quality control," said state Sen. Rick Jones, a Grand Ledge Republican. Jones introduced a bill in the state Senate this year that would give the director of the state's Department of Community Health the ability to send new synthetic drugs to the Michigan State Police crime lab for examination, and allow the state Board of Pharmacy to temporarily schedule the substance as an illegal drug. The state legislature would then have one year to formally ban the substance. SB 789 has passed the Senate and is currently before the state House of Representative's Judiciary Committee. Jones said he is "absolutely" confident that the bill will be passed by the House and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. "We're going after the salesman, not the user," said Jones, who is a former Eaton County Sheriff. "My goal is not to put young people in jail." He said legislators have indicated to him there is "an extreme problem in the Upper Peninsula with synthetic drugs" such as incense and bath salts, which are synthetic stimulants that are snorted. Manufacturers have changed the chemical content of the substances to evade laws passed to ban synthetics, said Ryan Burtka, legislative director for state Sen. Jim Marleau, a Lake Orion Republican. The purpose of SB 789 is to "address the ever-changing synthetic drug market." Marleau is a sponsor of SB 789. The manager of a Pontiac shop that sells incense said he would not smoke it himself. Danny, the manager of Cloud 22, preferred not to give his last name. He said incense is being used as an alternative to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. "The unfortunate reason there's a benefit to it (incense) is that it does not show up on a drug screen." Danny said that only adults 18 and older are allowed in Cloud 22, and said he would never sell to a minor. Readers on Facebook shared their opinions of synthetic marijuana. "Some of my friends have had their worst ever drug experiences on this stuff, be it sickness or hallucination," said Jessica Suzanne Stokes. "I wish we knew more about the contents of the products and the effects. Especially since college students can get their hands on it just as easily as booze and marijuana." "I would rather see marijuana fully legal and this 'spice' garbage obsolete," said Neil Parsons. Facebook user Toking Points said, "real marijuana has been the primary cause of exactly zero deaths, and yet we demonize it so much that teens are off getting high with scripts, spray (cans), bath salts, salvia, & now 'spice.'" "Unfortunately, when kids get in trouble and have to take drug tests, they turn to it because they can get high without testing dirty," said Jacob Abraham. "It is synthetic chemicals that should not be smoked by humans." Alexandra Marie Soro said, "for a majority of people it causes REALLY bad headaches and nausea. I think marijuana should be legal, but not this stuff ... too risky." "If the state made real marijuana legal, there would be no need for synthetic marijuana," said Michael Abbott. Holly Police Chief Danishevskaya said, "my main concern is the health effects on kids using this." Danishevskaya said she wants to "ensure awareness of the significant health risks of using this potpourri inconsistently with its intended purpose." - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.