WEST BLOOMFIELD TWP. (WWJ) – An Oakland County community is looking to become one of the first in Michigan to ban synthetic marijuana.
WWJ’s Mike Campbell reports the board of trustees in West Bloomfield Township may vote next week on a proposal to ban the herbal incense that is often referred to by the brand names “K2” and “Spice.”
If passed, the ordinance would ban the sale of synthetic marijuana within the township boundaries. Those who violate the ordinance could be sent to jail for months and would be required to pay a $500 fine.
This comes after a young Bloomfield Township man, 18-year-old Oliver Satchel Smith, died this past weekend from an overdose of the substance. Police say Smith “died as a direct result of smoking herbal incense.”
The synthetic drug has also been linked to murder investigations in Metro Detroit.
In the first case, two young men charged in the brutal murder of 52-year-old Robert Cipriano of Farmington Hills allegedly smoked K2 before invading Cipriano’s home and beating him and other family members with baseball bats.
In the other case, 18-year-old Jonathan Hoffman of West Bloomfield Township was fatally shot during an argument with his 74-year-old grandmother, Sandra Layne. According to Layne’s attorney, Hoffman tested positive for the synthetic marijuana the day of the attack.
The herbal incense is sold in a package that warns it’s not for human consumption, however the substance is usually smoked by users. Its contents are coated with synthetic cannabinoids which when ingested act on the body in a similar way to cannabinoids naturally found in marijuana, such as THC.
“It’s sprayed with several types of psychotropic drugs … which can cause hallucination and delusions and things of that matter,” said Darius Brantley, with the Detroit Recovery Project.
While the packaging may claim its contents are a mixture of traditionally used medicinal herbs, research has suggested that the actual ingredients might not be the same as those listed on the packet.
Reports have speculated that the rapid availability of the substance helped it gain popularity among teens, who are often not even asked to provide proof of their age before purchasing the item. Moreover, the substance is also available for purchase online. Brantley said the substance was originally marketed as a potpourri or intense.
“Overseas, I believe it was in Europe, someone decided to mix this synthetic cannabinoid with the potpourri or the incense in order for it to be smoked,” said Brantley.
No official studies have been conducted on the substance’s effects on humans and research on the safety of the substance is only now becoming available.
Some common compounds associated within synthetic marijuana have been banned for use, but manufacturers are creating new compounds to bypass the law.
A bill introduced in the state legislature back in April would update the list of outlawed chemical cocktails and help law enforcement officers keep up with the ever-changing nature of the substance. But according to a trustee in Bloomfield Township, the state is not acting fast enough.
West Bloomfield Township is not the only Metro Detroit community with plans to pass such an ordinance. Shelby Township is addressing the issue and many community members in Farmington Hills have been pressuring local leaders to address the issue. Several states have independently passed acts making the substance illegal under state law.
The question is, can local governments legally ban a substance that is currently legal to sell?