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posted: 4/6/2012 5:00 AM

Staying vigilant on synthetic drugs

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

When the General Assembly enacted a law prohibiting the sale of hallucinogenic "bath salts" last year and followed that up with a prohibition of synthetic marijuana, effective this January, the torch could have been passed to law enforcement. Our towns and schools could have washed their hands of it and moved on to other pressing matters.

Many did not, and for that they deserve praise. To those who have dropped it, get your heads out of the sand. There is much more to be done.

Last fall after the vote in Springfield we admonished community leaders to stay on top of this issue with anti-drug events and public awareness campaigns. We urged parents to spell out the dangers to their kids and help them make smart decisions.

Here are a few examples of those who are advancing the cause and ensuring both kids and their parents are getting the message about these potentially lethal chemistry-set highs:

The Lake in the Hills, Algonquin and Huntley police departments and Huntley Unit District 158 are inviting middle and high school students and their parents to Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills April 12 for a talk on synthetic and designer drugs.

On April 11, a Kane County panel -- including Karen Dobner, whose son Max died from crashing his car after trying synthetic marijuana -- and two others who lost their kids will speak at St. Charles East High School. The father of a Glenbard North High School sophomore who drowned after an underage drinking party also will participate.

In St. Charles, school board members are considering adding, among other things, possession or use of synthetic pot to the list of banned student behaviors that already includes such things as bullying and hazing. It would outlaw versions of synthetic pot that don't technically contain an illegal drug or controlled substance.

St. Charles aldermen voted to ban synthetic marijuana on a citywide basis in November. Many other suburbs did, too.

But in Mundelein, officials have targeted the manufacture, sale and possession of synthetic drugs by adopting local rules that far exceed what the state law covers. The village now outlaws more than 200 products and substances that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has deemed dangerous. It's Police Chief Ray Rose's way of staying a step ahead of the manufacturers of these drugs who merely tweak their formulas whenever a particular ingredient is targeted for prohibition.

Under Mundelein's new rules, anyone found guilty of possessing or using any synthetic drug will be fined between $250 and $750. Anyone found guilty of manufacturing or selling such substances will be fined between $500 and $750.

The combination of heightened awareness, more conversation with our kids and stiff penalties is sure to make a dent in this scourge. Bravo, everyone. Now let's not lose the pace.

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