Aurora protest targets ‘synthetic marijuana’
Karen Dobner lays the blame on synthetic marijuana, which is created by mixing herbs with various chemicals to mimic the effect of marijuana. The substance can cause palpitations, vomiting and seizures and bring on panic, paranoia and hallucinations, experts say.
“I am trying to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. I want to prevent more tragedies,” said Dobner, who created an organization called “To The Maximus Foundation” to advocate the ban of the substances. Dobner said the group is planning more protests at different shops in the near future.
Holding signs stating “Fake Pot Kills” and “Boycott This Store,” a group of about 15 people protested in front of an Aurora store Saturday, exhorting passers-by to be aware of the dangers of smoking so-called synthetic marijuana.
Leading the protest outside Cigarettes Hut on Galena Boulevard was Aurora resident Karen Dobner, whose 19-year-old son Max died June 14 after reportedly smoking the substance, usually marketed as herbal incense or potpourri. Max blew through a stop sign, sent his car airborne and crashed into a house in North Aurora. No one else was injured.
Inside the store, however, co-owner Mittal Patel said she understood the protesters’ motives but was angry about what she saw as interference with her business. “Everybody sells it because it’s legal,” Patel said. “It is wrong for (Dobner) to try to kill my business.”
The Aurora City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a proposal to ban the sale of synthetic drugs, said Mayor Tom Weisner, who took part in Saturday’s protest. Weisner said he expected the measure to be approved unanimously. “There are people who are willing to make a profit at the cost of lives,” he said. “We will enforce the ordinance to the maximum.”
Herbal incense sold under the brand names Spice and K2 will be banned in Illinois beginning Jan. 1. An effort led by House Republican Leader Tom Cross to ban all similar products is expected to kick off shortly, said state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia of Aurora, who showed up in support of the protesters. Chapa LaVia said she is working on launching an educational campaign aimed at PTO and PTA organizations.
As protesters chanted outside, Cigarette Hut customer Shirley Shepard of Aurora said individuals are responsible for their own actions. “He was the one who bought it,” she said. “Parents can’t treat their children like they are kids all their life.”
But protester Karen Rizzo of Bloomingdale said synthetic marijuana can make people incoherent, as it did her 23-year-old son, Michael, in an incident in late July.
Rizzo said she stayed in the house to watch over her son for 18 hours until he was back to normal. “I know drunk, I know high, but this was something I have never seen,” Rizzo said. “He didn’t know anything.”