An Aurora mom, whose son died in a car crash over the summer after smoking synthetic marijuana that he bought at a mall, told a panel in Springfield that education and legislation are two ways to fight the spread of the latest drugs to hit the suburbs.
Karen Dobner was a speaker at an emergency summit on synthetic drugs called by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to get state and federal law enforcement, educators, pharmacists and others to work together.
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Dobner's 19-year-old son, Max, died June 14 after he crashed his car into a house in North Aurora. Before the crash, Max called his older brother, told him he'd smoked some "legal stuff" and was having a panic attack.
"This is a unique drug, nothing that we have ever seen before in the American market," Dobner said after the summit, explaining that there are more than 400 chemicals in synthetic marijuana, making it difficult for cities to craft laws prohibiting it.
"(Max) did not do drugs. They just so happened to go to the mall and said it must be safe because it's legal," Dobner said. "People need to talk to their kids and explain it's not a glass of wine type thing. It's not marijuana, it's like LSD, PCP, heroin."
Madigan's office says the drugs are sold over the counter at convenience stores, gas stations and tobacco shops across the state.
Madigan's office divides the drugs into two categories: cannabinoids, popularly known as K2 or Spice, that contain lab-manufactured THC, the active ingredient in pot, to act as a chemically formulated version of synthetic marijuana; and cathinones, known as "bath salts," that contain chemical compounds to mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine.
"The fact that anyone can walk into a store and purchase synthetic drugs gives teens and young adults the illusion that these substances are safe," Madigan said in a prepared statement.
Since Max was killed, Dobner has launched a foundation, tothemaximus.org, to combat and eradicate synthetic marijuana. She also worked to get Aurora city leaders to enact a ban on synthetic drugs.
North Aurora, Sugar Grove, Montgomery and Yorkville have followed suit, and Chicago also is mulling a ban. The state banned bath salts in July but a ban on synthetic marijuana won't take effect until Jan. 1, 2012.