Like it or not, synthetic drugs found their way into the Tri Cities.
But city officials have found a way to keep them out.
The Batavia and St. Charles city councils on Monday night each approved an ordinance banning synthetic drugs in their respective towns. The ordinances prevent the sale, use and possession of various artificial drugs.
Each council approved their ban by a large margin. Batavia's vote was 12-0, with aldermen Eldon Frydendall and Susan Stark absent from the meeting at .
Synthetic drugs mimic the effects of actual drugs like marijuana, but sometimes with , according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Before the ban, the drugs were sold legally and mostly in 1-gram amounts in small vials or packets at tobacco shops and convenience stores. They are described as "incense" or "potpourri" on the packaging, and are given a wide variety of names, such as Red Magic and Dead Man Walking.
The drugs were linked to and to this year.
"These drugs present a real and present danger," said Jim Volk, Batavia Ward 4 alderman, at Monday's meeting.
Batavia and St. Charles join the following area towns with their own synthetic drug ban: , , North Aurora, , Sugar Grove and .
The Chicago City Council also voted on Nov. 16 to ban the sale of synthetic drugs. Aurora resident Karen Dobner last week spoke to Chicago aldermen about her 19-year-old son Max's experience with the drug. Max in Batavia Township while , Dobner said.
What Does the Ban Mean?
Shops in Batavia and St. Charles that are known to carry synthetic drug products will now have to pull it off their shelves, or be subject to large fines.
Distribution and possession of synthetic drugs each carry their own penalties, .
The ban in Batavia is effective this week, as soon as Mayor Jeff Schielke signs the ordinance and it is attested by City Clerk Heidi Wetzel, said Gary Schira, Batavia police chief.
Batavia Police will then drop off copies of the signed ordinance to the two stores already known to carry synthetic drug products. Those two Batavia stores are Crown Liquors & Tobacco, 135 First St. and Marathon Gas Station, 206 E. Wilson St.
Those stores will be expected to immediately remove synthetic products for sale, Schira said.
There will be compliance checks in the future with the two stores to make sure the drugs are gone, and checks in other stores to make sure the drugs don’t reappear elsewhere, Schira said.
Police will also be in touch with to get the word of the ban out among parents and students.
Growing Problem, Growing Response
These latest bans are reflective of a growing response from city and police officials to synthetic drugs. On Nov. 10, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan held an emergency summit on synthetic drugs.
In 2010, there were more than 2,900 calls from around the country to poison control centers about synthetic marijuana, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
In 2011 so far, there have been more than 5,700 calls.
Some synthetic drugs are already outlawed in the state of Illinois, and more will follow with another law that takes effect Jan. 1. But drug manufacturers can with different chemical compounds that are still legal.
State lawmakers hope to close that loophole with a more comprehensive synthetic drug law, a work still in progress.
Batavia Mayor Schielke has seen firsthand the need to ban the artificial drugs. He told the Council on Monday that he has observed police and firemen respond to people in distress near City Hall. In some of these instances, the people were found to be under the influence of synthetic drugs.
"(With the ban) the state of Illinois won’t have to worry about this area," Schielke said.