City Ban On Synthetic Pot Starts Wednesday, Statewide Ban Starts Jan. 1

Updated 12/13/11 – 5:21 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Starting Wednesday, it will be illegal to sell synthetic marijuana in Chicago. A statewide ban takes effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

The bans are aimed at getting the potentially deadly drug off store shelves.

The new laws were prompted in part by the death of a west suburban teenager and his mother’s crusade to protect other teens.

As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, synthetic marijuana is typically sold as potpourri or herbal incense, but is readily available in Chicago convenience stores and gas stations.

A Karen Dobner, a west suburban mother, believes if it had been illegal six months ago, her son Max would still be alive.

The smoke shops in Lakeview already know Chicago’s law is changing effective Wednesday. Signs at the door read: “The last day to purchase herbal incense, will be December 13th (today).

Dobner says good riddance.

“I want to help other people. I want to make sure that nobody else goes through what I have been through,” she said.

In June, her 19-year-old son, Max, bought synthetic marijuana at a west suburban mall and experienced a panic attack, with rapid heartbeat and hallucinations after using it. He drove his car at 100 miles per hour into a North Aurora home.

“We did max a disservice. He was such a good guy. He did so many good things and, yet, we did not protect him and I feel that it is our obligation to protect our kids,” Dobner said.

That’s why she has been campaigning to outlaw synthetic marijuana, often sold under brand names like K2, Wild Greens, or Head Trip.

“We need to get these off the shelves of convenience stores and gas stations, not only throughout the city, but throughout the state,” said Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who sponsored the city ordinance banning synthetic marijuana.

The ordinance bans any substance that mimics the effect of marijuana. A similar state law takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation, HB 2595, into law in July. It forbids the drugs often marketed as “potpourri,” with names such as K2, Spice, Purple Haze, Zombie Matter, and Orange Krunck, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said in a news release.

The products often say, “not for human consumption” on their packages, but consumers smoke them – often with encouragement of shop owners – in the same way people smoke real marijuana, officials said.

But many experts have said synthetic marijuana is actually far more dangerous than real marijuana. Those who use the synthetic products can suffer seizures, hallucinations, tremors, paranoia, convulsions, high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate, according to Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow’s office.

Quoting published reports, Glasgow’s office says poison control centers nationwide received more than 5,000 calls about synthetic marijuana in the first nine months of 2011.

“Over-the-counter availability of synthetic marijuana has created a public-health crisis in Will County and across the nation,” Glagsow said. “Young people are being poisoned by these extraordinarily dangerous chemicals. It was our obligation as law enforcement officials and as legislators to pass a law banning the possession and sale of every form of synthetic marijuana in Illinois.”

Under the law, all synthetic marijuana products will be classified as illegal Schedule 1 controlled substances. Previously, only certain chemical formulas for synthetic pot were permissible.

Anyone who sells synthetic marijuana could be charged with a Class 3 felony, and could go to prison for five years and be charged a $150,000 fine. Any illegal stock, and the entire shop where it is sold, could be seized.

Sale of more than 200 grams of synthetic marijuana could go to prison for 30 years and have to pay $500,000 in fines.

Simple possession of synthetic marijuana could result in Class 4 felony charges, which would mean three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

2 Investigator Dave Savini reported over the summer that several Web sites are selling synthetic marijuana, including a Louisiana company called Domestic Oddities, which markets iAroma Hypnotic along with other brands.

The company is run by Eric Fontenelle, who is only 18. In a YouTube video, he claimed his potpourri is euphoric and cause marijuana-like effects.

Fontenelle is part of a billion-dollar, unregulated industry. He claimed he does not tell people to smoke his product, but in his video he says, “What you do with it is your own business.”

But the bans on synthetic marijuana are not the only new attack in the war against synthetic drugs.

There’s also synthetic cocaine.

“Synthetic cocaine is sold as bath salts, usually. Synthetic marijuana, as you’ve heard, is often sold as incense or potpourri,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “But make no mistake; nobody is purchasing bath salts or incense or potpourri to use for any of those reasons – absolutely nobody.”

Burke plans to introduce an ordinance to the City Council that would ban the sale of synthetic cocaine.

Under the city’s synthetic marijuana ban, violators face fines of up to $1,000 for each offense, along with possible revocation of their business license.

  • Roberta Waker

    Great job by Jim Glasgow and everyone involved to make synthetic marijuana illegal. I hope it helps get some of the kids off of this stuff as it seems much more dangerous than real marijuana. Fontenelle and others like him are no better than drug dealers involved in a billion dollar drug business and he and others like him should be prosecuted and sent to jail as soon as this becomes illegal.

  • zeke

    You people don’t even know what you are talking about I have tried and known people to do incense for the last 3 years hundreds of them and not one has ever hallucinated. More regulations and laws so us taxpayers can pay to regulate legal adults choices in a are so called free country. I don’t wanna pay to police the people if you ban incense ban alcohol too I guarantee it kills more people and destroys way more families.

  • Catt

    Yeah, people are totally ignorant. I’ve been smoking all types of spice the past few months, every day. I’ve gone through hundreds of grams of it, not once have I had any of the symptoms above, other than an elevated heart rate.. Which… So what, lot’s of things cause that. The kids who die from smoking spice are stupid. If they had half a brain cell they’d figure out that it’s stronger. They smoke spice like they smoke cannabis, and then they overdose. Hey, how about we take a look at all the synthetic pot out there… How many has it killed? Ok, now how about alcohol…? Why don’t you get all up in arms about that killing people? It’s obviously killed thousands more. Granted, if cannabis was decriminalized, your son would probably be alive. There wouldn’t be a need for synthetics. Sooo…. That’s your buddy Big Brother’s fault.


  • bill Jackson

    Banning this product will help solve the problem people do drugs and alcohol across the US and it is the parents and the states fault. If parents keep tabs and have children Check in then they would know whether their child is sober or not. Also the reason why so many people break laws like under age drinking and use of marijuana is because it is the law is not strict enough. If u ever travel to let’s say Saudi Arabia I would like you to find just one person who is a criminal. In Saudi Arabian society there is minimal crime because of how strict the punishments are. I would love to see all of these hippie stoners smoking pot and then getting 50 years in prison with forced labour. A place where they will actually contribute to society

  • Don

    Why not just legalize cannabis and stop this madness. The war on drugs is the longest war this country has ever fought and it is a total failure. The only way to win it, like prohibition, is to end it. And BTW, what a waste of the city councils time to rush a city law in that beats an already pasted state law that goes into effect 3 days later.

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