Synthetic cannabinoid K2 (AP)
The Michigan House Judiciary Committee will hold a special meeting this morning to address stepping up regulation of dangerous designer drugs, like K2 and bath salts.
Designer drugs come in brightly colored packages with a variety of names, designed for a target audience.
"When you look at the packaging, it's certainly focused towards teenagers, not towards older adults," said Ken Stecker with the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. "Why is it so popular? Because it's accessible, because it's legal, and therefore they're allowed to go and buy it for themselves."
Designer drugs like K2 and bath salts can be bought at gas stations, convenience stores, or online, usually for for five to 30 dollars. The designer drugs are made of chemical compounds and synthetic substances that mimic the feeling or effect of the actual drug. The ingredients vary, and so do the side effects.
"One package may have no effect, but another package may be tremendously potent and therefore cause severe side effects," Stecker explained. "Those side effects can be hallucinations, delusions, vomiting, just to name a few."
So how can drugs so potent be so accessible? Stecker says it's because right now, only six of these chemical compounds are illegal in Michigan. So when those particular formulas were banned, chemists created others.
"They go outside the realm of a particular chemical compound under the law, and therefore create another one that's legal and that's what you see being sold in gas stations," said Stecker.
Designer drugs have been linked to many violent crimes, including a recent series of incidents in Southeast Michigan involving teens and young adults said to be using K2. The Michigan Department of Health reports a surge of hospital visits across the state related to use of these drugs, and there has been at least one overdose death. That's why lawmakers are pushing for more regulations to get designer drugs off store shelves.
Pending state bills would give law enforcement and other state agencies more authority to regulate designer drugs, and would expand the list of illegal chemical compounds. Stecker says changes like these would go a long way to keeping Michigan teens safe.
However, some communities near the Detroit area aren't waiting for state lawmakers to act.
West Bloomfield Township voted last night to ban the sale of K2 and bath salts. Township leaders say anyone caught selling the drugs faces up to 3 months in jail and a $500 fine. Leaders were worried about students getting the drugs so they pushed through with an emergency ordinance that takes effect today.
Officials in Macomb County also signed an emergency order last night banning people from selling K2 and bath salts.