Chicago's ban on 'synthetic marijuana' to begin

December 13, 2011 2:42:52 PM PST
A new ban goes into effect Wednesday in Chicago prohibiting the sale of synthetic marijuana.

The law's sponsors claim the ban closes a legal loophole that permitted this potentially dangerous product to be sold in the city.

The packages say potpourri or incense, but lawmakers say what is really inside is synthetic marijuana, herbs and spices soaked in chemicals that doctors say can be much more powerful than marijuana.

It is blamed for Max Dobner's death back in June when he crashed his car into a house. An hour before, he smoked synthetic marijuana, which was bought legally.

"It's the worst thing you could ever hear. There is nothing worse than hearing your son has died," said Karen Dobner.

Since then, Dobner has been on a crusade to raise awareness among teens, young adults and parents about the dangers of synthetic marijuana. She joined several Chicago aldermen who announced a new law banning the sale of synthetic marijuana in Chicago.

City Council investigators have bought the substance from smoke shops, gas stations and convenience stores.

"Chicago businesses should be on notice that as of tomorrow, all synthetic marijuana products must be removed from their shelves," said Ald. Ed Burk, 14th Ward.

"Synthetic drugs are very similar to playing Russian roulette with your body and your brain," said attorney general Lisa Madigan. "You do not know based on the packaging what the chemicals are and what the potency is."

Those caught selling products that are intended to mimic the effects of marijuana can be fined $1,000 and lose their business licenses.

A state law will go into effect January of next year that makes the possession or distribution of synthetic marijuana a felony. That law was co-written by Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow.

"The penalties are harsh and hopefully that will send a strong message, because this stuff is poison," said Glasgow.

Attorney General Madigan also says the use of synthetic cocaine products is a growing problem. Wednesday, several aldermen will introduce a Chicago law banning the sale of such products. They expect it to be adopted next month.

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