Undercover Cop Goes After Synthetic Marijuana Vendors

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — Come New Year’s Day, it will be a felony in Illinois to sell synthetic marijuana.

WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller spoke to an undercover detective in Will County, which has been one of the main fronts in the war on synthetic pot.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

Dave Margliano retired three weeks ago as chief investigator for the Will County State’s Attorney’s office.

“Let’s face it. I’m not your typical undercover police officer,” Margliano said. “But fat, out-of-shape old guys need drugs, too, I guess.”

One of his final jobs was riding his motorcycle up to places like tobacco shops to see how synthetic marijuana was being sold.

He showed us his collection.

“This one, the Black Mamba – it’s basically a synthetic marijuana. Black Mamba is the one that they said, ‘Do not ride your motorcycle after you ingest this. You’ll never be able to do it. Drive your car.”

In an undercover buy on one occasion, Margliano says a store clerk urged him to evade a passing police officer as he attempted to get on his motorcycle.

“The one place, I acted so high and drunk when I went in, the guy took me by the arm, put my arm over his shoulder, walked me out – after he sold me the product – got me next to my bike and said, ‘Are you sure you can ride?’” Margliano said.

“And I said, ‘Yeah, I can ride.’ And he goes, ‘Wait, wait, there’s a cop car going by. Just wait a minute.’ And we waited for the cop to go by,” Margliano continued. “And he said, ‘OK, get on.’ And I got on and started the bike. And he said, ‘Are you balancing?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK.’ He said, ‘All right. Get out of here.'”

So will tobacco and head shops automatically stop selling the synthetic marijuana on Jan. 1?

“They’re going to take it into the back rooms and they’ll sell it out of the back rooms, because they all have inventory of it,” he said.

Synthetic marijuana is typically sold as potpourri or herbal incense, but is readily available even in convenience stores and gas stations.

The statewide move to ban the substance has been dubbed “Max’s Law,” following a tragic crash in North Aurora.

Max Dobner, 19, 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 home in the far west suburb.

In fact, 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.

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.

In some jurisdictions, that means the penalty for synthetic marijuana possession could be far harsher than that for possession of the real thing. In several Illinois municipalities, most recently including Evanston, anyone caught with 10 grams of real marijuana or less will get just a ticket instead of being arrested and taken to jail.

A ban on synthetic marijuana started Wednesday in Chicago.

  • Jim Hamilton

    All drug charges should be a felony

  • Roberta Waker

    That’s great news. The penalties sound stiff enough, IF they are enforced and not plea bargained down. We need to get potpourri and incense off the streets because idiots are smoking it for a high. This stuff used to be put in glass jars to help your house smell nice and eliminate odors. Guess people will smoke anything for a high. Wonder what will be next; dog or cat poo?

  • Adam

    Maybe just legalize Marijuana since over 50% of the population wants it, uses it, or approves of it’s use? Just saying. And besides, I’m using it anyways and have no plans to stop using it. It’s my medicine of choice. Maybe, just maybe you might allow me to pay taxes on it? It’s not hurting anybody to use it responsibly and privately and if you have issues with it then you show just how ignorant and uninformed you are about it’s use and benefits.

    • Jim Hamilton

      The key here is you said it use it responsibly, now how do you responsibly breath something into your lungs when knowing that People who smoke marijuana regularly may develop many of the same breathing problems that tobacco smokers have, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent chest colds, a heightened risk of lung infections, and a greater tendency toward obstructed airways. Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs. Marijuana smokers usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer, which increases the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke. Thus, puff for puff, smoking marijuana may increase the risk of cancer more than smoking tobacco does. It’s like saying smoke crack Responsibly.

      Then you end up just like tobaco users running up health tabs for tax payers!

      • Tom

        Sorry Jim, marijuana does not have the carcinogens found in tobbaco. There is no comparison between the two. This is a proven fact!

  • Jim Hamilton

    Do you think I just made that up? Spend about 2 minutes on some research like I did and when you get your PhD and know more than the people doing the study then we can talk till then take a back seat pal

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