Mary Ann Vergith talks about t...
HOLLY, Michigan – A popular trend among adolescents nearly killed one 17-year old Holly High School student last week, and sent another 14-year old Harland youth to the hospital over the weekend.
Increased use of synthetic marijuana products are to blame, and it was the topic of conversation on Thursday as several concerned Holly officials gathered to discuss the matter. In addition to formulating strategies to combat the problem, officials also discussed ways in which parents, guardians and students can be educated on the dangers of the product.
Formerly known as K2, synthetic marijuana is a combination of herbs sprayed with a chemical compound that when smoked, mimics the effects of THC in marijuana. The product is usually marketed as incense. Banned by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm in October of last year, those still using K2 or a similar brand called “Spice” now face a 90-day misdemeanor for possession or usage.
In March of this year, the Drug Enforcement Agency used its emergency powers to end the sale of five chemicals used to make synthetic pot like K2 and Spice.
Since then, manufacturers have come up with other formulas that are only a single molecule apart from the illegal ones. Drugs like Demon, Cloud 10, Head Trip, and Zombie Killa are marketed as “incense.”
Susan Papple of the Holly Area Community Coalition (HACC) said the colorful packets or vials labeled as incense come in several different scents like lavender and mango, and that most parents are oblivious to the true content of the package.
While the contents of the package do in fact smell like incense, the leaves are coated with various chemicals used to induce a marijuana-like “buzz” when smoked.
Earlier this week, Papple said she visited a few area party stores, gas stations and smoke shops to see what products are available. It wasn’t difficult for Papple to find it a variety of different brands and flavors.
“It was interesting how when you start asking questions of the clerk, they get really nervous and a little defensive,” Papple said. “And when I said I wasn’t going to buy any – that I was just doing some research into the product, she told me she wouldn’t give me any more information unless I was going to buy it.”
Demon Ritual Spicy Botanical I...
The particular incense packet Papple purchased - Demon Ritual Spice Botanical mango-scented incense sold for $11.99 and can be bought by anyone, adults and minors alike.
Adverse reactions to the drug include an elevated heart rate, extreme increase in blood pressure, hallucinations, delusions, uncontrolled vomiting, an increase in anxiety and even seizures in some cases.
Pastor Ed Pedley of Holly’s First Baptist Church said he was all too aware of the possible reactions to the drug as a 14-year old Hartland female was taken to Genesys Hospital during last Friday’s Fuel 4 Teens event held at the church.
“Evidently she went outside and smoked it, and when she came back in, she sat down on the picnic table we have for the kids in the hallway and suddenly stood up shouting, “Call the police, call the police,” Pedley said. In addition to the hallucinations, Pedley said the girl’s heart was racing at 140 beats per minute, she complained of not being able to feel her tongue, and eventually became lethargic and despondent.
An ambulance was called, and the teen was later admitted into Genesys Hospital.
“The mission of Fuel 4 Teens is to provide a safe environment for teenagers to gather on a Friday night,” Pedley said. “This was the first time something like this has ever happened.”
Earlier in the week, Assistant Fire Chief Paul Schimmeyer said Holly EMS responded to a scene in which a 17-year old Holly High School student nearly died after lying face down in the middle of a rural roadway for an extended amount of time.
Schimmeyer said it was later determined that the student suffered from hypothermia and exposure from passing out in the roadway for an extended amount of time after smoking synthetic marijuana.
One of the problems, Schimmeyer said, was the inability to test for the substance. “It doesn’t show up in a blood test,” he said. “Initially we thought he was suffering from an overdose to a narcotic, so we administered a drug to flush the narcotics out of him, but nothing happened,” he said. “It’s really new territory for us and there isn’t any type of test that will give us an immediate answer.”
HACC Director Mary Ann Vergith said Genesys Hospital reported six separate Holly cases over the last month in which the patients were having an adverse reaction to synthetic marijuana.
Vergith said a urine test will tell the story if taken within 72 hours of smoking the drug, but that the test is normally around $70 and must be sent out to a lab for testing.
Principal Linda Skrzynski said the drug has already shown up at Holly Middle School. “A student gave us a heads up that another student had the product,” Skrzynski said. Along with counselor Mike Bloom, Skrzynski located a baggie that contained the substance and a small pipe in a student’s locker.
In cases like this, Skrzynski said the student would either be suspended, or if the student is found smoking or distributing the substance, would face a hearing and possible expulsion.
Chief Elena Danishevskaya will...
“The problem is it’s still legal,” Holly Police Chief Elena Danishevskaya said. “In most cases where we find a minor in possession of this substance, we just have to hand it back to the parents of the child.”
Senate Bill 789 was introduced by Sen. Rick Jones on Nov. 1, 2011 and gives a state agency the power to temporarily ban a drug they say poses an “imminent threat,” even though the legislature has not voted for a new law banning the drug.
In a vote of 36-0, the bill passed through the Senate on Dec. 1, and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
“Until the law is passed, parents need to be aware of the product,” Vergith said. “Parents need to sit down with their kids – show them what the packet looks like – explain what it’s all about, and just educate their kids on the dangers of it.”
As an outcome of Thursday’s meeting, Danishevskaya is looking into doing a collaborative Weekly Community Podcast with Kent Barnes, superintendent for Holly Area Schools on the dangers of the drug. Vergith said the Holly Police Department will also be sending out informational letters to all HAS district households about the drug in the near future, and that an officer will be attending Friday’s Fuel 4 Teens and talking about last week’s incident, and the danger of ingesting synthetic marijuana.
HACC hopes to educate Holly High School students through the HHS online newspaper as well as it’s Youth Action Board.
Skrzynski said she plans to send newsletters home with middle school students, and hopes to coordinate an informational presentation to be given to all Holly Middle School students.