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2 Investigators: Synthetic Marijuana Product Blamed In Teen’s Deadly Crash

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Max Dobner, 19, died in June when the car he was driving flew into a house in Batavia Township. (CBS)

Max Dobner, 19, died in June when the car he was driving flew into a house in Batavia Township. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A deadly car crash has taken on a new twist. A product the teen driver bought at the mall is now being blamed for causing the accident, 2 Investigator Dave Savini reports.

Max Dobner last month slammed into a house near Batavia in unincorporated Kane County. His car went airborne and then into the bedroom of a 2-year-old, who, fortunately, was playing in the backyard.

“It was the worst moment of my life”, the teen’s mother, Karen Dobner, says.

She was at a friend’s house when police called her cell phone with the news. 

“He said your son had an accident and he did not survive, and all I could say was, ‘No, no, no!’” Dobner says.

The Aurora mother of three young men says she especially couldn’t believe her usually cautious and responsible son could have died this way. But then she learned hours before the crash Max and a female friend went to a tobacco shop at the Westfield Fox Valley shopping mall in Aurora and bought Iaroma.

It is marketed and sold as potpourri, but police say it’s actually being smoked by teens and can cause powerful and frightening reactions. There have been numerous complaints of rapid heartbeats to panic attacks to severe hallucinations.

“I think he was hallucinating. I think he was in a total panic,” Karen Dobner says.

According to his oldest brother, Justin Dobner, Max had called him in a panic and said he had been smoking what he referred to as “legal marijuana.” Minutes later, Max was behind the wheel of a car traveling at speeds up to 100 mph, driving into oncoming traffic and ultimately into the home where he suffered a blunt force trauma to his head.

“Parents need to know about this stuff. Kids need to know about it, too,” Ed Manzke, an attorney for the Dobner family, says.

The 2 Investigators went undercover and saw numerous young men buying it at the same store Dobner did, at The Cigar Box.  A store clerk sold CBS 2 Iaroma and another form of potpourri but said it was not for smoking.

Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the Chicago field division for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, says his office is investigating Iaroma and similar products to see if they are the newest forms of the outlawed synthetic marijuana.

Riley says the chemical is shipped in a powder form and sprayed on dried leaves. One recent 13-pound seizure of the powder by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol could make more than a half a ton of the drug. 

Federal authorities say that when smoked, it is 100 to 800 times stronger than real pot. In Max Dobner’s case, the Iaroma bag says on the packaging that all the ingredients in Iaroma are legal. 

“This stuff is being sold not for human consumption and it’s being done with a wink and a nod by some very bad people who are interested in making money and they don’t care what happens,” Riley says.

In March, a federal ban was imposed on five different kinds of synthetic marijuana based on testing and their molecular structure.

But Riley says the companies behind the creation of the drug skirt the law by slightly changing the chemical structure.  

Karen Dobner fears more kids will buy these products and have similar reactions.

“I think that they think because its legal it’s safe, and its anything but safe,” she says.

The Dobner family asked police to run special toxicology tests on Max. A DEA task force is now investigating his death, and the unused portion of the bag will be analyzed.

The Cigar Box, the shop that sold the Iaroma, did not return phone calls to CBS 2.

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