Elizabethtown-Lewis student and volunteer at the Elizabethtown Community Hospital Brody Hooper talks about the study he did on K-2 for the hospital.
Members of the Bringing Essex County Strengths Together (BEST) Committee met at the Essex County Board of Supervisors Chambers Feb. 1 to discuss the battle against synthetic marijuana.
Led by Michael Mascarenas of the Essex County Youth Bureau, the committee brought together members from youth advocacy groups, law enforcement and county to talk about the dangers of legal substances like K-2 which is being smoked by individuals to get the same effects as drugs like marijuana.
Mascarenas said that the meeting, which was intended as a small gathering of local leaders but exploded into a public meeting after being reported as a public forum on the matter, was intended to put together a plan to “attack the issue of synthetic marijuana.”
“The ultimate goal is to come up with an organizational action plan that we can all get behind and work together to solve this problem,” Mascarenas said. “We want to make this an united effort and attack this together.”
Mascarenas also commended students from Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School who were in attendance at the meeting.
“They have seen a problem and they wanted to do something about it,” he said. “These students have been very candid and very open about this. It is there issue, and they brought it to the table and they want something done about it.”
One student, junior Sarah Sandberg, spoke about her experience with the substance, while fellow junior Brody Hooper showed a presentation that he created to help emergency room attendants at Elizabethtown Community Hospital understand what K-2 was.
“It was an in-service project on what to do with a K-2 patient for the hospital and it has expanded from there,” Hooper said. “I was working on the first case that we saw that we knew was K-2 related, and some of the people had never heard of it.”
Hooper said that, as far as restricting the sale or use of synthetic marijuana went, states were still trying to get a handle on what to restrict.
“Many states have yet to pass a restriction law, but the bills are starting to pop up,” Hooper said. “The problem is, some have banned ingredients, but the makers in Europe then change the ingredients to keep their product on the shelves.”
Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague explains her roll on a committee looking into synthetic marijuana through the New York State District Attorney's Association.
Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague, who has been named as a co-chair for a committee looking into the substance and it abuse by the New York State District Attorney’s Association, said that public outcry is what leads to change in government.
“The more support that they have, the easier it is going to be,” Sprague said. “It’s people like this that have the energy and momentum to push this and bring it to the lawmakers. This is what will get these laws passed. We will see this come to fruition, I truly believe that, and hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Both State Police Captain John Tibbits and Essex County Sheriff’s Deputy Bob Rice said that they knew of the dangers, but could not enforce anything against a substance that was legal.
“A lot of the stuff that I am hearing is when it is being found with other substances,” Tibbits said. “We are finding that there is also a re-sale economy for these products for those under 18 when they are not allowed to buy the product from the stores, and it is becoming a drug of choice due to its legal status.”
“I’ve gone into house where they have been actively smoking it and there is no recourse for me to take,” Rice said.
Tibbits added that, while there was no legal pressure, people could seek to put a financial burden on those who sell the substances.
“As a community, you have the most powerful thing and that is your economy,” Tibbits said. “The people selling this, it is part of their business and that is what they want to sell to make money. If the community is behind the cause, stop shopping at their stores until they stop selling it.”
Arin Burdo, Elizabethtown Social Center Director, agreed, citing the sale of the substance at the Betty Beaver Truck Stop in Lewis as an example.
“I can do whatever I want on behalf of my kids, and I want this out of the truck stop in Lewis so my daughter can’t get it there,” Burdo said. “Of course it’s appropriate to boycott. My kids are at risk, and this should be something that gets every parent angry.”
Mascarenas added that the problem does not lie with youth alone, something that was further exemplified by Sandberg.
“I have seen parents smoking this right next to kids that I know,” Sandberg said.