What Karen Dobner calls "poison sprayed on leaves" now cannot be sold, possessed or used in Aurora, under an ordinance the city council approved Tuesday night.
Dobner began pushing for a ban of synthetic marijuana, often marked as herbal incense or potpourri, after the death of her 19-year-old son, Max, who smoked the substance June 14, then crashed his car into a house and died.
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Dobner, of Aurora, found a receptive audience in Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, who began working with city attorneys to draft an ordinance, and in the city council, which passed the ban unanimously.
"Thank you for responding so quickly to the problem of synthetic marijuana and synthetic bath salts and all the other hallucinogens we are trying to address," Dobner said. "I want to make sure any kids who think it's safe know it's anything but safe. It's poison sprayed on leaves."
Aurora's ordinance prohibits "any product containing a synthetic cannabinoid, stimulant or psychedelic/hallucinogen" and derivatives of those products from being sold, offered for sale, possessed or used.
While state and federal bans exist for some synthetic drugs, those units of government meet too infrequently to adjust to changes in the names and formulas of products trying to imitate the high produced by drugs such as marijuana, said Carie Anne Ergo, Aurora's Chief Management Officer.
"We worked with (Dobner) and the (To The Maximus) Foundation to craft legislation that could adapt more quickly to the changing situation," Ergo said.
The ban should serve as a reminder to be wary of druglike substances available at cigar and cigarette shops, gas stations and convenience stores, Alderman Mike Saville said.
"I think it's something that we have to be very cognizant of with what's out there," Saville said.
The ban on synthetic alternative drugs became effective immediately Tuesday night, and the penalty for violating it is a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Those accused of violating the ban will be tried in Aurora branch court, Police Lt. Brian Hull said. Police will mail letters to shops known to carry the products and begin enforcing the ordinance by sending undercover officers to attempt to buy the banned substances.
If officers are sold a possibly banned substance, it will be sent to a lab for testing, Hull said. And if tests show it contains a synthetic drug or derivative or a synthetic drug, the store employee then will be charged with violating the ordinance.
Weisner said the ordinance sends a clear message to shops selling "herbal incense" or "potpourri" and to young people who may be tempted to try the products. The message: Synthetic alternative drugs are not safe.
"One of the problems with the use by kids not knowing the damage it can cause is heretofore, it's been legal," Weisner said. "We're signaling it's not OK."