Macomb County officials signed an order Monday prohibiting businesses from selling K2 while also launching a public program to curb the synthetic drug's distribution.
"This is a serious problem. It's not going to go away and it's time to take action," said Macomb County Health and Community Services Director Steve Gold before signing the order with county Executive Mark Hackel.
Spice must immediately be removed from shelves
Under the order, businesses that sell K2, also known as Spice, or any other synthetic drug could face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail or a $200 fine.
"Our middle schoolers and our high schoolers are getting their hands on this synthetic marijuana," Sheriff Tony Wickersham said. "Macomb County doesn't want this type of stuff in our community. We need to protect our youths."
The order falls under a Michigan public health code act that's used for imminent danger, such as serious diseases, said Gold, adding that it has not been used for legally sold merchandise.
But Hackel says he's not worried about the potential legal challenges to enforcing the order.
"There's always a challenge to the law," he said. "It's about being bold and being right."
He stressed that the county cannot sit on the sidelines while K2 jeopardizes public safety.
The county officials, along with state representatives and other local leaders, held the news conference to announce the K2 ban at the Mobile gas station on North Avenue and 21 Mile in Macomb Township.
Unlike many other gas stations and party stores, the business repeatedly turned away K2 distributors since they began pushing for retailers to stock shelves in 2009 because of the potential health concerns, owner Nader Jawad said.
Citizens can become K2 Kops
The county also launched a program Monday aimed to involve the public. Under the initiative, a citizen can report establishments that sell K2 or any synthetic drug by visiting www.markhackel.com. Reported businesses may then be inspected by a health official and officer who will verify the complaint. If violating the order, the owner could then be charged with a misdemeanor or fined and the drug will be confiscated.
Owners who voluntarily remove Spice from the shelves can register their businesses on the website, declaring they do not sell the drug. They can also download a window sign showing their participation.
Hackel says he hopes public pressure motivates retailers to stop selling Spice.
"Personally, if I see that there is a place that is selling this product in their store, I wouldn't even buy a stick of gum," he said.
The county action is coming after K2 opponents have been pushing for a ban across the state. In Macomb County, hundreds of people rallied against the drug last weekend in Shelby Township. An initiative to ban Spice in the township has been put on hold in light of the Monday's order that will affect all Macomb County communities, including Shelby, township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said.
Stathakis said that the township alone has approximately 250 parents and citizens dedicated to stopping Spice from being sold.
"We're on the look out, we're watching and we will do what we need to do to make sure this goes away," he said.