Three Chicago City Council members led by Alds. Matt O’Shea (19th) and Ed Burke (14th) on Wednesday unveiled an ordinance that would outlaw synthetic marijuana or any products resembling the effects of taking the drug.
The ordinance [PDF] would prohibit the sale of synthetic marijuana, defined as “any product, whether described as tobacco, potpourri, herbs, incense, spice, aromatic, or any combination thereof” including a number of non-prescription substances with a chemical structure or pharmacological effect similar to marijuana, within Chicago’s city limits.
The ordinance’s proponents argue that though the synthetic drugs are not yet categorized as illegal under state or federal law, they are especially enticing to and marketed toward children and young adults. Banning them, the ordinance reads, would be “in the best interest of the public health, safety and welfare.”
Speaking before the City Council meeting, Burke explained: “The same kind of effects that can be created by marijuana are being created by this substance and people shouldn’t be operating vehicles and using this to get high and then conduct themselves on the public way,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
Anyone found to be selling, giving away or exchanging fake weed would be fined between $500 and $1,000 for each offense. Alds. Will Burns (4th) and Harry Osterman (48th) are also pushing for the ban, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration explained to ABC Chicago that keeping synthetic marijuana off the streets has posed a “significant challenge to them.
On Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan convened an emergency summit in Springfield with the hopes of raising awareness of the dangers of synthetic marijuana and other substances, such as bath salts.
“We’re now seeing easily once a month a significant case, a death occurring in the state of Illinois, and it’s invariably somebody below the age of 20, 25,” Madigan told ABC.
In Texas this week, three 16-year-olds reportedly suffered heart attacks after smoking designer fake weed. Last month, a Pennsylvania teen died after he became ill from smoking synthetic marijuana and undergoing a double lung transplant.
While the DEA pushed earlier this year to put the products under emergency restriction, they have not been able to curtail its availability.