Minutes into the second season premiere of "Crime Inc." on CNBC, Aurora mom Karen Dobner sums up the business of synthetic marijuana.
"They don't care about killing kids. All they care about is making their money," said Dobner, whose son Max died at 19 in June 2011 after smoking synthetic marijuana he got from the mall and crashing into a house in North Aurora. "They are marketing to our kids using YouTube and Facebook and magazines. The bad guys have found a gold mine."
Since her son's death, Dobner has formed the To The Maximus Foundation to educate people about the dangers of synthetic marijuana, which she calls poison sprayed on leaves, and to push for laws banning its sale and possession.
The "Crime Inc." program told viewers what happened to Max, how people are marketing these new synthetic drugs and how they are skirting laws that would normally ban their sale. For example, synthetic marijuana is often marketed as potpourri and "not for human consumption." Synthetic products designed to mimic the effects of cocaine and crystal meth are referred to as "bath salts."
Dobner said that since the episode of "Crime Inc." aired last week and over the weekend, she's been inundated with calls and emails from parents who are putting the puzzle together about what their kids are into, and media from Japan and Sweden want to hear her story. Dobner has been an activist at suburban drug forums, but the program was probably the largest vehicle so far for her to spread awareness.
"We feel that we're making progress," she said this week. "The difference we've made in the last year has been incredible. But we're still seeing deaths in Illinois."
Since Max's death, many communities have enacted laws banning the sale and possession of synthetic drugs. In July, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law drafted by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.
The law went into effect July 31 and changes the state's Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act to close the loophole companies use by saying their products are "not intended for human consumption." The new law defines a "synthetic drug product" as any product containing a controlled substance not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and makes possession with the intent a felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.
"This is what we've been waiting for. This is the kind of legislation that other legislators across the country will be modeling their laws off of," Dobner said. "It's a tremendous victory for the state of Illinois."