Synthetic drug labeled imminent danger to users

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

A popular synthetic drug called “Cloud 9” or “Hookah Relax” has been branded by the county as an imminent danger to public safety and city officials have made efforts to curb its sale.

The drug was banned by Wayne County in 2012, but recent cases of overdosing in Westland and Canton led to the Wayne County Department of Public Health issuing an “emergency imminent danger order” against the drug Sept. 24.

The order said that “all persons in the Wayne County Health Department jurisdiction that includes the 42 Wayne County communities outside of Detroit are immediately ordered to cease selling, trading, giving, bartering, serving, providing or otherwise making available such substances.”

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said the department is aware of the drug but has not not seen prevalent usage of it or sales in the city.

He also said police, Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., the city council and state Rep. George Darany (D-15th District) discussed the drug and its potential threat to the community and decided to take a proactive approach to dealing with it.

“Immediately following the county’s emergency order we began visiting each and every location in the city where these dangerous substances might be sold,” Haddad said Wednesday. “As of today, we have visited over 60 establishments and not found a single violation.”

Haddad said that during the visits officers educated the business owners on what type of substances are banned and their potential threat to public safety.

The officers also provided the owners with a copy of the Wayne County Emergency Order and a letter from Haddad which further outlined the dangers and penalties if the drugs were offered for sale.

The penalties for a business or individual found in possession of the drug range from a misdemeanor to a felony with a maximum penalty for the felony being seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Wayne County Environmental Health workers will also conduct random inspections of retailers that sell tobacco products as part of the emergency order, and businesses found selling the substances will be ordered to stop selling the products and could face legal action.

Haddad said he has been in contact with Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Brian Whiston, who said the schools have not experienced any instances involving the drug but all district staff will be made aware of it and it’s potentially deadly effects on users.

The drug has been sold at both gas stations and convenience stores in the form of incense, liquid forms and bath salts.

It is a clear liquid that can be put into a drink, smoked using an e-cigarette, hookah or smoked with marijuana.

According to Dearborn police, the effects of the drug can include agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain, increased pulse, high blood pressure and suicidal thoughts or behavior.

In a release discussing the imminent danger order, Wayne County Department of Health and Human Services Director Mouhanad Hammami said the order was for the protection of county residents.

“Due to recent, local reports of increased incidences of psychotic episodes with these two specific products, this order is being issued for the health and well-being of the community and Wayne County residents,” Hammami said. “We are also working from a public health perspective to increase public awareness to curb the use and sale of these controlled substances.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration has classified synthetic cannabinoids such as Cloud 9 into the Schedule I category of drugs, meaning the drug has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of acceptable safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

A similar order against the synthetic drug was recently released in Macomb County, where more than 20 hospital visits have been attributed to the drug.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)