Town Meeting Exposes K2, Alcohol and Other Drugs
Area leaders examined the topic of substance abuse at the Orion Township Public Library this week.
The core message from a communitywide Town Hall Meeting this week was the need for parents to educate their children at a young age about drugs and alcohol.
North Oakland Community Coalition (NOCC) sponsored the meeting at Orion Township Public Library. The Town Hall Meeting included a panel with a wealth of knowledge on substance abuse, including Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh, Orion Township Substation Lt. Daniel Toth and Judge Julie Nicholson of 52/3 District Court. Associate Principal at Lake Orion High School Chris Bell and Oakland Family Services Clinical Manager Tobi Russell were also on the panel, supplying community members with information.
Toth gave advice to parents about hosting parties, specifically graduation parties, advising that alcohol not be accessible. Nicholson explained that though the court still receives plenty of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine-related cases, a lot of teens are abusing heroin and prescription drugs. She went on to say that kids as young as 12-16 are doing heroin and that it’s an inexpensive drug.
“I feel like I have an obligation to not only educate the parents, but the kids,” Nicholson said. “You can’t shield them from this, they have to know what’s out there…otherwise they’re getting misinformation from their peers.”
Nicholson, like Bell, expressed that parents are there to guide and educate and act as a parent and not a friend to their kids. She advised parents talk with other parents and enter contractual agreements where they all agree not to allow certain activities that would endanger their children.
“Once the kids know that you’re in tune and your radar is up they’re going to be more likely to not engage in that behavior,” Nicholson said.
A focus on K2
A portion of the meeting mirrored the substance abuse forum that took place at Lake Orion High School in March, while the other part of the meeting introduced a substance called K2.
K2 is a compound that acts as a drug and is made up of weeds sprayed with a manmade chemical compound, combined with dried flower petals that people smoke, said Narsh. Narsh gave a brief presentation and was rallied with questions about the substance toward the end of the meeting.
“It’s 10 times as potent in a measurable effect as normal marijuana,” Narsh said of the substance, which is commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana, though Narsh said the effects are not similar. “I want everyone to understand and leave here tonight knowing this – this stuff is not marijuana, it has nothing to do with marijuana, it is a chemical made in a lab that affects the CB1 brain receptor.”
According to Narsh this chemical compound can be found in a variety of gas stations, party stores and hit the radar in the Orion area in 2010. One of the local stores that Narsh visited on Tuesday had 13 varieties on its counters. This chemical compound comes in packages branded as K2, Spice, Genie and Black Magic, along with other names. One of the store owners Narsh has visited admitted to selling about 50-100 packets per week, which he confessed was a low volume to sell in the Orion area, suggesting that other businesses are selling even more.
The potpourri-like substance comes in foil packets. People purchasing the packets will then use the contents like marijuana, either smoking it out of pipes or rolling papers, said Narsh. Narsh warned parents that since there is no age limit in Michigan for purchasing incense or potpourri, even a 10-year-old could purchase the K2. He went further saying that business owners will usually use their own discretion as to what age group to sell to.
“I contacted a friend who was a director of one of the Michigan State Police Crime Labs, provided him a sample and asked for a chemical analysis. What I got back is frightening,” Narsh said. “The compound contains substances that remain in the body permanently like mercury or lead poisoning and it can be compounded by use.”
“There is proof that smoking these substances can create deep psychosis and is putting hundreds of young people right here in Michigan into emergency rooms,” Narsh said.
Narsh advocated to make K2 illegal, which it was as of October 2010. However, according to Narsh chemists found a way to change the compound slightly, moving it off the banned substance list and making it legal to buy and sell again. As it stands now, Narsh said that Senate Bill 789 passed the Senate and is currently in the House to make this new version illegal. Narsh said he hopes to see the bill signed by the governor by June which will allow the police to punish users, the same as they are prosecuted for using marijuana.
This bill keeps the door open, according to Narsh, so that every time there is a similar chemical compound, it will be sent to the Board of Pharmacy which will then add the substance to the banned substance list within 10 days of testing it.
Narsh tried to rally attendees to help stop the sales and purchasing of the substance while it is still legal.
“In each store you visit…ask if they have it …if they do share with them that as a concerned parent you’re not going to shop there,” Narsh said, telling parents to take action and take their business elsewhere until that particular business stops selling the substance.
Triggering action in Orion
Julie Brenner, executive director of the NOCC, said she hoped that the meeting would ‘trigger some thoughts, trigger some action’ and get the community involved in putting an end to substance abuse.
“As you’ve heard from the panel, it’s here, and it’s killing our kids,” Brenner said.
NOCC is currently setting up marijuana, underage drinking and prescription drug action teams. For more information or to get involved visit www.northoaklandcoalition.org or call (248) 520-3786.
Orion Neighborhood Television will be airing the Town Hall Meeting at 4 p.m. May 1, May 3 and May 5 on Comcast channel 10 or U-Verse channel 99.