By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – The City of Rockford is proposing an amendment to its existing tobacco ordinance to better protect citizens against the sale of synthetic marijuana.
As it stands, Section 3-102 of the city code is significantly vague about the public health issues arising from the inhalation or smoking of fake cannabis.
“(The proposal) is to include and ban non-tobacco products – synthetic marijuana,” Assistant City Attorney Lafakeria Vaughn said. “There is a long list of products and brands that synthetic marijuana is sold under. There are also substances and compounds that make up synthetic marijuana that are banned.”
The long list of synthetic marijuana brands includes K2 and Spice, two of the most popular. While area stores have taken those brands off their shelves, officials say the substance is still being sold within the city under various names. Vaughn said it is important and in the best interest of the city to amend the ordinance to include those other brands.
Some of the products are 2010, 8-Ball, Aztec Gold, Aztec Gold Salvia, Banana Cream Nuke, Black Diamond and more than a dozen variations of K2, K3 and K4.
If approved by aldermen, the amendment will apply to any person and any licensed or unlicensed establishment located within the city. It makes it unlawful for them to possess, sell, offer for sale, give away, or otherwise furnish any product for inhalation which does not contain tobacco.
The proposal comes after two people died last month from smoking synthetic marijuana sold at a store in West Chicago. Three people were arrested in connection with those deaths after federal authorities made controlled buys at the store. The Illinois Department of Public Health also revealed that at least 56 people statewide have experienced severe bleeding after using the substance.
Some of the other possible dangers of using fake cannabis include liver failure, kidney failure and respiratory problems.
Fifth Ward Ald. Venita Hervey said she’s received first-hand reports of usage.
“They’re selling bath salts and potpourri and some of these things we know kids are using to get high,” Hervey said. “It’s really out of control, and kids are having horrible reactions to this stuff.”
Vaughn said she expects to see more brands pop up as the banned list grows, which is why the amendment includes the ingredients used to make the synthetic drug. Those include JWH-007, JWH-015 and RCS-4, street names for just three of the many laboratory-created compounds that function similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive agent in marijuana.
The amendment excludes hookah products and those listed in Section 3-101, which requires a license to sell tobacco, alternative nicotine products, electronic cigarettes, electronic cigarette liquid, liquid nicotine, and smokeless tobacco.
In Rockford, a tobacco license is good for one year unless revoked. All licenses expire on April 30 the next year after issuance. R.