June 13, 2012 - The Clarkston area is free of Spice/K2, thanks to a group of community volunteers.
Andrea Schroeder, left, and Nancy Walkowski map out commercial zonings during the pledge drive. Photo by Phil Custodio
(click for larger version)
"We are ecstatic about the support we've had from business owners and the people of Clarkston," said Lisa Barth, one of organizers of No Spice/K2 Clarkston. "We expected the community to come through but had no idea it would happen so quickly."
For the past several weeks, volunteers have been going to stores throughout Clarkston, and Independence and Springfield townships. They asked them not to sell Spice/K2 synthetic drugs, and to sign a pledge not to do so. As of June 8, they all have.
The group published a list of participating merchants on its website, www.nospicek2clarkston.org, and Facebook page.
"I think people really responded to our approach of supporting the stores who take the pledge while increasing public awareness of the dangers of these products," said Andrea Schroeder, another founding member. "We wanted to take positive action to get a positive result."
The group has about 4-5 core members, with another dozen or so helping out. They used zoning maps to identify commercial zones and divide up territory for coverage.
"The majority were very receptive, but there was some push back – it's legal, there's a demand for it," Schroeder said. "Once we talk to the owners to make them aware of the negative impact this has on our community, the responsible ones sign the pledge."
Rich Walker, owner of Cracker Barrel market at Sashabaw and Oak Hill, signed he pledge on June 6.
"After looking into it, I have no problem signing the pledge. It's not a good product," Walker said. "I hope all stores agree not to sell it. I don't want my kids to do it – I think it should be banned."
His store never carried the product, he said.
"I didn't even know about it," he said. "It's like marijuana. I don't want to sell something like that. We're not that kind of store."
The No Spice group was launched on May 10 at a information forum hosted by 52-2 District Court Judge Kelley Kostin.
"I applaud NSK2C and the vendors who are taking the pledge for their efforts and hope that other communities follow suit," Kostin said. "This is exactly what the residents of Clarkston need to do in order to make the public aware of this dangerous substance."
The volunteers worked with community service organizations throughout the project, said Tonya Cunningham, liaison with the Clarkston Coalition for Youth, a community partner.
"This is at the forefront of what we do – our mission is to help kids reach their highest potential. Harmful chemicals like this do not allow that," Cunningham said. "Working together, we were able to get the message out to more people, more efficiently. "
With their success, they have been contacted to help with similar groups in Troy, Clawson, Oxford, Lake Orion, Rochester, Madison Heights, and Auburn Hills, as well as in Macomb County and Wayne County.
The pledge drive isn't the end of the project. Schroeder testified at a hearing in Lansing to get the state involved.
"Civic activism is piecemeal and unsustainable," she said. "We need comprehensive legislative solution around which local efforts can move."
State legislators are considering bills to prohibit the "designer drugs" by chemical classification, and empower state police to remove them from stores.
"These dangerous substances have already been linked to horrific crimes in our communities, and it is our job to help get these dangerous substances off the shelves," said state Rep. Eileen Kowall, whose district includes the Clarkston area.
"I also want to thank the local residents who have come together in a grassroots manner to get local gas stations and stores to stop selling these dangerous drugs," Kowall said. "By working together on this issue, we are protecting our communities and keeping local children safe."
The products contain synthetic chemicals including stimulants methylmethcathine and methylenedioxpyrovalerone.
They have been linked to violent behavior including homicide and suicide. On May 25, deputies cited an 18-year-old Independence Township man with disorderly conduct for threatening to shoot employees at DTE Music Theater. He didn't have a weapon, but a packet of K2 was in his pocket and he said he had been smoking it.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.