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Fake pot bans catching on in Rock County

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
December 23, 2010

A Milton High School student was expelled this month for possessing the stuff.


Earlier this year, a school resource officer caught a group of students at Milton High School using the stuff at school.


And at least one adult in Rock County was hospitalized this year after he became ill from smoking the stuff.


The stuff—synthetic marijuana products—could get tougher to come by in Rock County if a handful of local city councils moves forward with plans to ban sale and possession of synthetic cannabinoids.


While the city of Milton and the village of Clinton approved ordinances banning synthetic marijuana earlier this year, other Rock County municipalities this month are introducing their own ordinance drafts to ban sale and possession of fake pot.


Among the communities now considering the bans are the cities of Janesville, Edgerton and Evansville.


The Janesville and Edgerton city councils plan first reads on their ban ordinances Monday, Dec. 27. The Evansville City Council could approve a proposed ban as early as Jan. 11, City Clerk Judy Walton said.


Officials view the local bans, which come with fines, as a stopgap measure. Synthetic marijuana is not restricted under state and federal law.


Although the substance is commercially marketed and sold legally at local stores, experts say it is unregulated and dangerous.


Some Rock County municipalities with synthetic marijuana bans already have netted arrests for possession of the substance, local police say.


A Milton adult recently was charged with possession of synthetic cannabis during a drunken-driving stop, according to Milton police records. Police Lt. John Conger said the city already has arrested two teens for possessing the substance.


In the wake of the Milton ban, Superintendent Bernie Nikolay says the school district now views fake pot like any other controlled substance.


A high school student was expelled this month for possessing synthetic marijuana. Nikolay said students in the district also have failed random drug screens because they’ve tested positive for synthetic cannabinoids.


Nikolay said he believes the rules would be clearer if neighboring communities had similar ordinances banning fake pot.


“It’s confusing for students and everyone that a purchase you can buy legally can get you in trouble at school,” he said.


Synthetic marijuana is sprayed with untested, unregulated substances that mimic some of the effects of marijuana. The substances are packaged commercially with disclaimers, but ingesting them reportedly can cause panic, a loss of consciousness and seizures.


Edgerton Police Chief Tom Klubertanz said his city hasn’t had any emergencies linked to synthetic cannabis. However, he says he was alarmed by reports earlier this year of Milton and Clinton residents becoming ill after smoking the substance.


“We want to be ahead of the eight ball with an ordinance before we’re reacting to any problems with this,” Klubertanz said.


The specter of so-called “overdoses” on fake pot led Janesville City Council members George Brunner and Russ Steeber, along with the police department, to introduce an ordinance banning synthetic marijuana. The draft says any adult selling, possessing or using fake pot would face a maximum fine of $500. Juveniles would face fines up to $75.


Brunner said he hopes Janesville and other area communities’ work to ban synthetic marijuana will spur action by state and federal lawmakers. He also said he wishes city store owners who carry the substance would pull them voluntarily. If not, a new ordinance could force the issue.


“I think the business community in Janesville has always been responsible. I would hope they would look at this ordinance and say it’s a good thing if we banned this product to prevent illness and possible tragedies,” Brunner said.



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