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updated: 11/7/2011 9:56 PM

St. Charles looks at ban on synthetic illegal drugs

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St. Charles may be cracking down on synthetic drugs with a very real penalty as the city heads toward a ban on the items, which are sold in local stores as potpourri, incense and bath salts.

Police Chief Jim Lamkin told aldermen Monday night that 911 calls regarding the products -- which have some of the same effects as marijuana -- are becoming more common.

Officials in Aurora, North and Sugar Grove recently banned the products. Batavia officials on Tuesday will discuss a ban after 10 calls to 911 since February involving people who had used the products. Those calls included ambulance calls for seizures, paranoia and intoxication. But Batavia's most serious police involvement was two aggravated battery incidents where the suspects had been smoking the synthetic drugs.

In St. Charles, the most serious incident involved a robbery of a local business who sells the products. Police determined the suspect targeted the synthetic drugs sold behind the counter; the cash drawer was left untouched.

The products in question are marketed with dozens of different names such as "Purple Magic," "Winter Boost" and "Jamaican Gold."

The ban will target chemical combinations, rather than specific products, Lamkin said. Arrests involving the products typically involve lab tests to determine what the products contain, he added. Police have tried to get local stores to voluntarily stop selling the products but have had no success, Lamkin said.

"Our goal is to remove it from shelves," Lamkin said. "I realize until there's a larger ban, it is still going to be available in some of the other towns."

There are no state or federal laws specifically addressing the products, Lamkin said, so St. Charles must create its own penalty. That penalty will involve either a fine or misdemeanor charges. Because police officers typically have found the products sold in local liquor stores, Lamkin said an additional penalty for those establishments may involve suspension or revocation of a store's liquor license.

The St. Charles City Council is expected to approve the ban at its next meeting.

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