Pubdate: Sat, 24 Dec 2011
Source: Oakland Press, The (MI)
Copyright: 2011 The Oakland Press
Author: Dustin Blitchok


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

"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

"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

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." 
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