It was every parent’s worst nightmare.
Dearborn resident Steve Arnold was awakened in the middle of the night by his teenage daughter, who told him that she needed to go to the hospital.
The reason? She had smoked a substance she bought at a BP gas station on Cherry Hill and Telegragh Road. It was called “Scooby Snax” and it was labeled as a type of potpourri.
But what Arnold came to find out, after staying all night at the hospital with his daughter, was that what she had actually smoked was a form of K2, or “Spice.”
Now, he wants it out of the city of Dearborn.
Spice is a form of synthetic marijuana that is commonly sold as incense, or potpourri. It was originally sold under the name K2, but legislation banned K2 in Michigan in October of 2010. Since the ban, manufacturers are finding ways around the legislation by manufacturing variations of the banned substance, eliminating the chemicals that caused the original K2 to be banned.
According to an article in The Journal of School Safety, one in nine high school seniors has used synthetic marijuana in the past year.
The article states that the use of Spice is now the second most frequently used drug among high school seniors, second only to marijuana.
With no ingredient list, and little history or testing done on the product, users–often teenagers, since there are no legal limits on who it can be sold to–don’t quite know what they’re smoking when they take a hit of Spice.
It’s a growing problem, says Sarah Parker, a program coordinator at the Plymouth-based Michigan Growth Works, which oversees juvenile probation cases in western Wayne County.
“It’s very concerning in terms of youth using it,” said Parker, who added that the problem has escalated within the past six months. “We don’t know what the long-term effects are.”
But many individuals and families are experiencing first-hand what the immediate effects are: Rapid heart beat. Paranoia. Hallucinations. Delusional–even suicidal or homicidal–thoughts. Heart attack. Seizures. Death.
“It’s very concerning in terms of youth using it. We don’t know what the long-term effects are.”
Spice is cited as the drug of choice for 19-year-old Tucker Cipriano, who faces first-degree murder charges in the April 16 beating death of his father, Dearborn Public Schools employee Robert Cipriano.
Parker says it's not uncommon to see violent outbursts from Spice users.
“It’s worse (than marijuana),” Parker said. “It’s affecting everyone differently … and some youth who’ve smoked it one time had heart attacks.”
And what Growth Works recommends to combat the use of Spice is exactly what people like Arnold are doing: spreading awareness, and staging community boycotts.
Arnold has started a local campaign called “Not in Our Neighborhood,” complete with a Facebook group, and a plan to boycott businesses in Dearborn selling any form of Spice.
“I’ve been going around and checking gas stations and liquor stores,” said Arnold, who has searched for the product at more than 30 Dearborn gas stations and party stores. “Everyone’s aware of this–they know there’s an issue and a concern. There’s many who said they absolutely won’t sell it, and there’s others who don’t care.”
As for the ones that continue to sell it? Arnold said he’ll shun any business that does.
“I’m asking for a community boycott to any retailer that sells this in our community,” he told Dearborn City Council on May 8. “By June 6, Dearborn needs to be K2 free.”
City Council, for their part, passed a resolution Tuesday evening pledging their support for the riddance of “Spice” products from Michigan, and asking state legislators to strengthen Michigan’s anti-K2 laws.
“Dearborn is serious about this, and we’d like to have the law changed,” said Council President Tom Tafelski.
Arnold–along with representatives of Growth Works–believe that although the product should be banned, efforts to remove Spice from stores needs to start within communities.
Growth Works stressed that until all forms of Spice are illegal, the power to prevent use lies largely in the hands of informed community members.
“We are asking communities to see if gas stations and party shops are selling this,” Parker said.
Arnold is leading the charge in Dearborn.
“The politicians and police are doing the right thing, but their hands are tied,” said Arnold. “It’s a community issue. Knowing that it’s harming children, it has to cease and desist in Dearborn.
“I won’t stop until every vendor in Dearborn doesn’t sell it.”
To learn more about Steve Arnold’s efforts to drive Spice out of Dearborn, visit the “Not in Our Neighborhood” Facebook page.