Aurora shop owners and customers take note: those little vials of “potpourri” and “incense” are no longer welcome in that city.
All forms and variants of synthetic drugs are now illegal in Aurora. The Aurora City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night on a measure that bans the drugs.
Multiple stores in Aurora, Batavia and throughout Kane County carry products that are packaged as incense and potpourri, but are sold in amounts as small as one gram. These products are suspected to be synthetic marijuana and can have severe side effects when smoked. These include a rapid heart rate, paranoia and panic attacks, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA.
The ban is especially significant to Karen Dobner—she lobbied for tougher laws on drugs and brought the issue to the attention of Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner. She was joined by family members and supporters in the Aurora City Council Chambers on Tuesday as the ordinance was passed.
“It was kind of emotional for me,” Dobner said of the vote. “I couldn’t hold back the tears.”
Dobner said her son Max had synthetic marijuana in his system when his car crashed on June 14 in Batavia Township. She has formed a foundation, To the Maximus! that seeks to educate people about the drug and push for legislation like the Aurora ordinance.
Dobner said she will work towards similar bans in surrounding cities. She also has her eye on state bills and even current federal legislation that would prevent online sales of these products.
Dobner and her supporters on Saturday staged a picket in front of a Cigarettes Hut shop on Aurora's west side after the owner refused to remove suspected synthetic marijuana products from the shelves.
How The Drug Ban Works
The ban on synthetic drugs in Aurora is effective immediately. Police in that city will have cadets or undercover officers issue warnings to store owners if they see the synthetic products carried in the stores.
After that, the owners would be prosecuted and face stiff fines. The ordinance makes consuming, selling and possessing synthetic drugs a class 3 misdemeanor.
“(City Attorney Alayne Weingartz) worked with the DEA to write up the most far-reaching … laws that are on the books anywhere in the country,” Dobner said.
Dobner said the ban makes a statement, one that she hopes to become louder with each day.
“If one less kid doesn’t smoke this stuff, then at least we’ve made some progress,” Dobner said.
Dobner said the legal status of some of the synthetic products leads people to think they are OK to consume. What they could get instead of a normal high are traumatic, mind-altering experiences because the products aren’t regulated.
Dobner said her son Max mistakenly thought the product would be OK to try, and it cost him his life.
“I wish I could have my son back, but I can’t,” Dobner said. “This is one tiny little victory.”
At the federal level, Dobner has recently learned about HR 1254, a bill that is almost ready for a vote in the House of Representatives.
The bill would outlaw any forms of synthetic drug products sold or possessed within the United States, Dobner said.
Also at the state level, House Republican Leader Tom Cross has staff reviewing a previous drug bill that Governor Pat Quinn signed in July.
Dobner wants to make sure there are no loopholes in the bill, which would go into effect Jan. 1. If there are, she hopes they can introduce a new bill before year’s end that would be more extensive.
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