Batavia Monday joined other Fox Valley-area towns in banning the sale and possession of synthetic alternatives to marijuana and stimulants.
Aldermen voted 12-0 to create a local ordinance forbidding the substances, which are sometimes packaged and sold as "herbal incense" and "bath salts." While packaging may contain a warning that the products are not intended for human consumption, Batavia police reported finding herbal incense for sale at a store in a display that also contained glass smoking pipes. The Drug Enforcement Agency reports such products may be sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids as well as PCP and other drugs.
Makers of synthetic cannabinoids have skirted state and federal laws that ban specific compounds by slightly changing the molecular structure of the compounds.
"This is why the ordinance reads like an organic chemistry text," Alderman Jim Volk said.
The ordinance was proposed by Police Chief Gary Schira and recommended by the city services committee, of which Volk is chairman.
"I do not want to sound like some fanatic out of (the 1950s movie) 'Reefer Madness'," Volk said, but he considers the drugs dangerous. He cited the case of Max Dobner, whose mother believes was suffering a panic attack induced by smoking synthetic marijuana when he drove his car into a house near North Aurora in June. He was killed. Volk also cited a memo listing 10 police incidents in Batavia since February where people had smoked herbal incense known as Red Magic, or ingested synthetic stimulants called "bath salts."
Mayor Jeff Schielke said that while working late at night in his office in the Batavia Government Center, he has witnessed police and medical workers going out on such calls.
"Within 500 feet of this building, I have personally witnessed situations where this stuff has caused people to take a wrong turn in life and personally injure themselves," he said.
Batavia police reported finding two downtown stores that sold "herbal incense" -- a gas station and a liquor store.
The ordinance is effective immediately. It calls for a fines and community service for perpetrators 16 and younger, and fines, community service and jail time for those 17 and older. Police could still choose to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges under state law. A state law adding more synthetic cannabinoid compounds to a state ban takes effect Jan. 1.
Aurora was the first locally to adopt such a ban. Dobner lived in Aurora, and the stuff he smoked came from an Aurora tobacco shop. Aurora police announced Monday that, in an undercover sting last week, they checked five liquor, convenience and tobacco shops for compliance. All five passed. However, two of the stores failed a simultaneous check for selling liquor to the underage undercover agent.