JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and House Minority Leader Tom Cross are warning retailers that selling any product containing synthetic marijuana will be illegal under a new law that takes effect on January 1, 2012.
State’s Attorney Glasgow researched and drafted the law that makes the sale or possession of synthetic marijuana a felony crime. Rep. Cross sponsored the legislation, HB 2595, which the governor signed earlier this year. Glasgow and Cross were joined at a news conference Wednesday afternoon by more than 30 local police chiefs and law enforcement officials as well as local mayors and other community leaders in urging retailers to acknowledge the new law and stop selling these products.
In addition to Glasgow and Cross, those who addressed the media included Will County Executive Larry Walsh, Shorewood Police Chief Aaron Klima and former Will CountyState’s Attorney’s Office Detective Dave Margliano.
Synthetic marijuana has been sold legally under brand names such as K2, K4 White Widow, Black Mamba, Spice, Purple Haze, Zombie Matter and Orange Krunck to name a few. They are sold as incense in packages that often state: “Not For Human Consumption.”
However, consumers have been smoking these products – sometimes with encouragement from shop owners – in the same way people would smoke illegal marijuana. Health risks posed by smoking synthetic cannabinoids include seizures, hallucinations, tremors, paranoia, convulsions, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. Poison control centers across the country have received more than 5,000 calls related to synthetic marijuana products in the first nine months of 2011, according to published reports.
“Over-the-counter availability of synthetic marijuana has created a public-health crisis in Will County and across the nation,” Glagsow said. “Young people are being poisoned by these extraordinarily dangerous chemicals. It was our obligation as law enforcement officials and as legislators to pass a law banning the possession and sale of every form of synthetic marijuana in Illinois.”
“With access to these dangerous substances, the safety of our children and consumers is at stake,” said Rep. Cross. “That is why we acted so quickly when we learned people were getting sick after abusing these items and banned these substances through legislation this Spring.”
Under the new law:
- All known synthetic marijuana products will be classified as an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance. Laws were being enacted that outlawed only some chemical formulas for synthetic marijuana, but allowed the continued sale of substitute formulas. The new law comprehensively bans all currently available substances and covers more than 160 formulas.
- Anyone who sells products containing synthetic marijuana could be charged with a Class 3 Felony that upon conviction carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to a $150,000 fine and the seizure of illegal stock as well as any property used to facilitate the sale. However, penalties can range as high as 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines for someone who sells 200 grams or more of synthetic marijuana.
- Anyone who simply possesses synthetic marijuana could be charged with a Class 4 Felony that carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office will work with local police agencies in January to make certain that retailers are complying with Illinois law. Officers – in uniform or undercover – will visit tobacco retailers throughout the county to ensure that these illegal products are not being sold. Last week, Glasgow and Cross sent letters to more than 350 tobacco merchants notifying them of the new law and warning them to remove the stock from their shelves.
Some states have passed laws banning a few of the literally hundreds of formulas for synthetic marijuana. A sophisticated industry has developed in which suppliers track legislation and skirt the intent of lawmakers by shipping formulas that are not banned in particular states. House Bill 2595 was reviewed by the Illinois State Crime Lab and will outlaw all synthetic marijuana compounds in Illinois.