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Local efforts help push drug-banning legislation

Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh and his family joined Congresswoman Lisa Brown, from West Bloomfield, as Governor Jennifer Granholm signed the law banning K2. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
October 06, 2010 - K2 is also known as legal weed, Spice, Demon and Genie – and now it's illegal, thanks in no small part to Lake Orion law enforcement and community coalition efforts.

Until Friday, Oct. 1, when Michigan's new law banning the drug went into effect, K2 was sold in Lake Orion and Orion Township stores as potpourri. But customers who bought it weren't looking to freshen up their homes. The stuff actually smells pretty bad, says Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh.

Instead consumers – mostly youth – purchased K2 to smoke it and get high.

"It's a chemical substance manufactured in an uncontrolled environment in a foreign country and marketed to us in a lie. Just take those facts alone – wouldn't that scare you to know your child was ingesting that?" said Narsh, who added that the information people don't have about K2, like exactly which chemicals are in it, makes the drug even riskier.

The drug has never been formally tested on humans or animals in a controlled environment, so no one knows the long-term effects it has on the body, according to Narsh. But what is known is that K2 brings many users to the emergency room with anxiety, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, pale skin and vomiting.

All those issues combined made it necessary to ban the drug, says North Oakland Community Coalition Executive Director Julie Brenner. NOCC joined forces with the Lake Orion Police Department last March to push state legislation banning the substance forward.

The law went into effect 12:01 a.m., Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. (click for larger version)
Brenner says the coalition is very pleased with the new law, which technically bans the possession, use, sale and purchase of the chemical JWH-018. The chemical is similar to THC, the chemical in marijuana, but is a synthetic version with a different make-up.

Lake Orion High School counselor Michelle Novak doesn't believe K2 has a large following among Lake Orion youth, but noted she has come across a few students who have used the drug before. Of those who have used K2, most say they only tried it once and wouldn't use it again. When it comes to drug preference, K2 isn't a popular choice, said Novak.

"It wasn't a very good high to them. It's just as easy for them to get marijuana or alcohol or prescription drugs," said Novak, and other drugs offer a better high. "Once they realized it didn't make them feel as good as weed, they were gone."

Novak added, "I think it's good that it's illegal. It was just another avenue for kids to use drugs."

The Lake Orion police chief says he's not found anyone who could offer evidence of K2 having a medical or societal use.

"It's obvious that this is a drug that has no business being available in America," he said, noting that it's even banned in many places around the world that are considered very liberal. "You could probably be naked in Copenhagen and smoke marijuana on a street corner and it's not going to alarm that many people. Yet, in Copenhagen, you cannot have K2 – it's illegal. What does that tell you?"

Along with K2, BZP (benzylpiperazine) MM-cat (methcathinone HCl) and salvia are included in the law and are now illegal to buy, sell, possess and use.

Getting caught with K2 (and MM-cat or salvia) will be like getting caught with marijuana, with the same fee and penalty schedule. Using the drug, for example, is 90 days and/or $100. Possessing and selling ups the ante, according to the police chief.

BZP is similar to Ecstasy and will be prosecuted as a schedule-one drug, as a felony.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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