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Saturday, August 1, 2015

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Synthetic marijuana ban passed by state House; Granholm likely to sign into law

K2 and other synthetic cannabis substitutes likely will become illegal throughout the state of Michigan after the state House agreed Thursday to Senate revisions on a three-bill package.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to sign the bills, although spokeswoman Katie Carey said she is unsure when. The ban, if signed, will begin Oct. 1.

Each of the three bills in the package were met with one dissenting vote.

K2 is an herbal blend sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid, JWH-018.

Although it does not contain any tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance that produces marijuana’s high, it has similar psychoactive effects.

The bills define K2 and other cannabis substitutes as Schedule 1 drugs, which are those with a high risk of dependency and no known medicinal purposes. Other drugs in this class include marijuana, ecstasy and LSD.

Mirroring marijuana’s penalties, simple possession could bring offenders a $2,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

Use could be punishable by a $100 fine and a maximum of 90 days in jail. Both would be a misdemeanor.

Like many other Schedule 1 drugs, manufacturing and selling the drugs would be a felony charge punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to seven years in jail.

Also prohibited under the legislation is an ecstasy substitute called N-Benzylpiperazine, or BZP.
The legislation originally was passed by the House in June.

The Senate unanimously passed the bills Wednesday with a few minor tweaks, including prohibiting several more chemical compounds. Accepting the changes, the House passed the three bills by votes of 103-1, 103-1 and 102-1.

Chemical marijuana substitutes are extremely dangerous and need to be banned as soon as possible, said state Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the sponsor of one of the bills.

“There are students from Traverse City to Oakland County (that) have been put in hospitals with serious reactions to this chemical compound,” Jones said. “People have no idea what they’re putting in their body. It’s greedy people making money off of foolish people.”

Despite health concerns, using these substances merits a victimless crime and banning them should not be the government’s priority, state Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade, the lone ‘nay’ vote in the House, posted on his Facebook profile Thursday.

Amash did not return a call seeking further comment Thursday.

“I support imposing stiff penalties on individuals who endanger others,” Amash wrote. “Proponents of these bills have not persuaded me that the proscribed activities merit lengthy prison sentences at a time that Michigan is releasing violent offenders to save money.”

Despite the numerous chemical compounds included in the legislation, there are always more substances that can be sprayed on an herbal blend to create a high, said an employee of In Flight Sports, 507 E. Grand River Ave., who declined to be identified.

In Flight Sports is one of a few East Lansing shops that sells K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids.

“I’ve talked to a lot of distributors of this type of herbal incense,” the employee said. “This stuff is just being mass produced in China and India.”

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