LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan joined a growing number of states with laws aimed at snuffing out so-called synthetic marijuana on Tuesday when the governor signed legislation outlawing the substances, which are often sold under the names Spice or K2 in stores.
Synthetic marijuana has been available in stores as a mix of dried herbs and spices sprayed with chemicals. The substances have been blamed for health problems and violent behavior, especially among young people.
"This is overdue," Gov. Rick Snyder before signing the package of bills. "Synthetic drugs are a very bad thing. We need to continue to learn that there are new variations coming. K2 is the next variation."
The new state laws also allow the Department of Community Health to declare health dangers when other synthetic drugs pop up. The law allows the department to call the Board of Pharmacy within 10 days and "ban the sale of this poison, because that's exactly what it is," said Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge who sponsored one of the Senate bills.
"Parents should check their children's bedrooms. They should look for this product. Stores, if you're still selling this — gas stations, stores — we're coming to get you. You're going to go to jail. Here's your chance. Throw it away tonight," he said.
The new laws target synthetic cannabinoids and products sometimes referred to as bath salts. The laws list chemical classifications that are prohibited and grants Michigan State Police authority to remove those drugs from stores by July 1 if businesses haven't done so.
At least 40 states have banned synthetic cannabinoids, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Under Michigan's new laws, anyone caught manufacturing, distributing or selling the substances can be charged with a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. For possession, the maximum sentence is two years. Anyone convicted of using synthetic marijuana could be hit with a misdemeanor that carries a possible one-year jail sentence.
The state police is kicking off a "K2 is NOT OK" campaign. State police say synthetic drugs also are sold as Chronic Hypnotic, Happy Smurf, Cloud Nine and Hurricane Charlie among other names.
Several counties and communities across the state already have enacted their own measures banning the sale of synthetic marijuana. After those measures were passed locally, some convenience stores and gas stations received surprise visits from police making sure the items had been removed from shelves and storerooms.
The Michigan Food and Beverage Association said Tuesday that retailers will be asked to display window decals letting customers know they are in compliance with the law. The trade organization said it already has pushed a "no sale" policy among its more than 3,500 members, which include restaurants.
Also Tuesday, two young men were charged with breaking into a Fenton store in search of K2. The Genesee County prosecutor's office said the suspects, ages 17 and 19, entered through a vent. They were last week for possessing K2 at Fenton High School.