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Police see increase in abuse of herbal products

These are some of the synthetic marijuana products recently tested by police.

Remember K2 and Spice, the products that looked like a potpourri that teens and young adults were smoking to get high? Even with state and federal laws banning it two years ago, similar products are now gaining in popularity. In recent months, deputies with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and Grand Rapids Police Officers say they have seen an increase in sale and abuse of a synthetic, marijuana-like substance, under several new brand names. Manufacturers have found a loophole to continue to sell these items by making slight variations of the substance.

In 2010, the Michigan Legislature made it illegal to sell the chemicals found in many of these products, but slight molecular changes have put similar products back on store shelves, being marketed as potpourri. These herbal products are legally sold at a variety of retail outlets, in some smoke shops, and over the Internet. Labels mark that these products are “not for human consumption” and “not for sale to minors,” yet police say they are seeing abuse of these items, particularly by teens and young adults, who think smoking it will give them the same type of ‘high’ as marijuana.

Here in the Cedar Springs area there are several businesses that sell it. Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent thinks that’s unfortunate. “It’s not my position as police chief to tell them they can’t sell it. It’s up to the individual business owners to decide. But, unfortunately, there’s a profit to be made. They can label it ‘not for human consumption,’ but they sell it as individual packets of potpourri, which you wouldn’t use that way, and sell it in flavors like bubble gum flavor. It doesn’t take much to figure out how it’s being marketed,” he explained.

Parent said they have encountered at least one underage user in possession of it, and an adult using it in his home, but they know more are using it. He said he’s also met with other chiefs in other communities, and they are seeing it, too, along with problems with bath salts.

Cathy Raevsky, Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department said she is hearing the same thing. “Kent County deputies say they are getting calls from schools and concerned parents, and police in Grand Rapids tell us they have seen 30 cases in the past month alone,” she noted. “We need parents to talk to their children about these products, and explain that these chemicals can lead to serious side effects, such as elevated heart rates, vomiting, disorientation and convulsions.”

Parent said that he also encourages his officers to talk with a parent or guardian if they find a minor in possession.

Often, tests on these products show they are just slightly modified from substances banned in 2010 by lawmakers, and police must close out the case without issuing any charges.


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