Educators, Police Warn of Dangers Associated with Spice
The legal synthetic marijuana Spice is sold at several local gas stations and party stores in the area. While you must be 18 to buy, police and school officials say it's becoming an issue amongst high school students of all ages.
Last summer Fenton Police seized a new illegal drug from two Fenton businesses.
The ingredients in the drug, a synthetic marijuana, have changed and it is now available legally.
Many parents, school officials and police officers are asking what can be done about Spice?
The answer? Not much, except educate parents and students about the dangers of this legal, synthetic marijuana.
Spice was the topic of a recent Ask the Chief on White Lake Patch. Resident Kathy Vitullo wrote in, asking White Lake Police Chief Edward Harris what Spice was, what the effects are of this product that is smoked in a similar manner to marijuana.
According to Harris, Spice is is a form of synthetic marijuana that is sold as incense. It was originally sold under the name K2, but K2 was banned when legislation was passed in October of 2010. Harris said since the ban, manufacturers are finding ways around the legislation by manufacturing variations of the banned substance, eliminating the chemicals that caused the original K2 to be banned.
"This type of synthetic marijuana is extremely dangerous," Harris said. "There has been movement to introduce new legislation to ban all forms of this substance, however it is still pending. I would strongly recommend everyone contact their respective state representatives and senators to urge the passage of such legislation."
Currently, anyone 18 or older can purchase Spice.
Last July, Fenton Police Chief Rick Aro said several containers of suspected Posh were seized from a local gas station, which had the drug in plain view.
“Both owners said they were not aware the substance was illegal,” Aro said.
Spice in schools
Accessibility is the biggest problem, according to Hartland High School student assistance coordinator Nicole Schingeck who recently went to a community forum that was put on to bring awareness to the community about the effects of synthetic marijuana. Community agencies, court officials and schools personal were all in attendance and said they were all seeing the same issues here in Livingston County.
"I have been approached by many parents and students as well about this new epidemic that is causing serious and permanent outcomes on our children," Schingeck wrote in an email to Hartland Patch. "As a district, I have been trying to learn as much as I can about this to be able to get the proper information out to the Middle and High School staff, as this is the age group predominately using it."
Helping to raise awareness and educate parents and students is her goal, according to Schingeck who has already presented to local eighth grade students about the dangers of Spice this past week.
Kris Nelson from the Key Development Center in Brighton agrees with Schingeck also saying that she is concerned with the accessibility of the product.
"It is available to young people in each community," Nelson wrote in an email to Hartland Patch. "I have talked to several teens who have tried it or know someone who is using it. Many do not understand what it really is or the dangers and negative effects of using it."
In their efforts to help educate the community, Schingeck and Nelson will be teaming up on April 18 when they present a parenting class at the high school starting at 6:30 pm.
"This issue will also be addressed," Schingeck wrote. "All grade levels of parents are welcome. And as always any new information and resources that I find for parents, teachers and students will be distributed and available to share to get this substance out of kids hands."
Nelson adds that in the Fowlerville district, a letter was sent to local merchants who are selling the product, as well home to the parents in the community giving them information about the drug.
According to a recent article in The Journal of School Safety, one in nine high school seniors has used synthetic marijuana in the past year.
The article states that the use of Spice is now the second most frequently used drug among high school seniors, second only to marijuana.
The Drug Enforcement Administration states that smoking spice gives a person psychological effects similar to those of marijuana, including paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness. It also can cause increase heart rates and blood pressure. Because the manufacturing of Spice is not regulated, the DEA states the combination or herbs and chemicals used can be potentially dangerous, and smoking the drug can cause serious reactions including nausea and, in at least one reported case, brain swelling.
Spice is currently sold at several gas stations in White Lake, but not every retailer puts the product on display. Some stores opt to keep Spice behind the counter, something School Liaison Police Officer Jon Kirken said he hopes other stores will do.
"It's a legal drug, it can be sold and displayed just like tobacco or alcohol," he said. "While I don't like the fact that these businesses are selling it, I would encourage them to keep it behind their counters and sell it only when asked to get it, similar to cigarettes."
In some stores, massive displays are set up Kirken said.
"I've talked to a few of the stores," he said. "I asked why they keep selling it to kids if they know it's dangerous, one manager said they make $700-$800 a day selling Spice. I don't know how accurate that figure is for every retailer in White Lake, but it shows just how popular Spice is in the community."
Kirken said it's hard for the police to do anything about the situation because the drug is legal. However, Kirken, like Chief Harris, recommends parents talk to their legislators to get the drug banned all together.
"Even if we were to get rid of it in White Lake, it'd still be available in other places and the kids would get it," he said. "Parents need to pay attention to their kids and talk to them about the dangers of Spice. Education and communication can go a long way."