Health Department declares designer drugs a threat

By Daily News • Last Updated 12:57 pm on Monday, June 18, 2012

The health officer of the Mid-Michigan District Health Department has issued an order declaring the designer drugs known as synthetic marijuana and the poisons known as “bath salts” a threat to public health.

This order enables local law enforcement to order people to stop selling these drugs and to remove them from store shelves, and to confiscate the drugs if necessary. The order applies to Clinton, Gratiot and Montcalm counties.

At its May 23 meeting, the Board of Health of the Mid-Michigan District Health Department directed the Health Officer, Marcus Cheatham, to issue the order at the request of the Medical Director Dr. Robert Graham. Graham, who is also medical director for the Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD), had already assisted CMDHD in banning designer drugs.

Cheatham said, “There has been intense interest in getting these poisons out of our communities. I have received several requests to take this action from local law enforcement and prosecutors, and also from county substance abuse prevention coalitions.”

Synthetic marijuana consists of various forms of cannabinoids, related to THC, the main ingredient in marijuana. So-called “bath salts” comprise drugs in the cathinone family including methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

Both drugs can produce unexpected and powerful effects due to the fact that there is no quality control or consistency in their manufacture.  Synthetic marijuana is documented to have caused 224 cases of serious adverse reactions in 2011 while “bath salts” caused 164 cases. The drugs had been noticeable in certain gas stations, party stores and “head shops” where anyone could buy them.

The Michigan Legislature is poised to pass a law that would have the same effect as the local order.  Uncertainty as to when exactly the law will take effect is prompting local authorities to proceed on their own.

The effort to remove designer drugs from our communities was support by the prosecutors and sheriffs’ departments in Clinton, Gratiot and Montcalm counties, by the police and public safety departments in St. Johns, St. Louis, Alma, Ithaca and Greenville and by members of the substance abuse prevention coalitions in the three counties, including representatives of the boards of commissioners.

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