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Janesville City Council votes to snuff out synthetic pot

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 11, 2011
— It's too late for residents who might have planned to speak at a public hearing on the sale of synthetic marijuana.

Despite information that the Janesville City Council would delay the vote until Jan. 24, Councilman Frank Perrotto led a charge to vote Monday.


The council voted unanimously to ban the sale of the incense that contains a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana.


The product is imported and unregulated. It looks like oregano and is sold in pouches under such names as Spice and Mr. Smiley.


Police said in a report that the ingredient mimics the high of marijuana and causes such side affects as nausea, anxiety and increased heart rates.


The product will be removed from stores 24 hours after the ordinance is published in the Gazette, which must be done within 10 days.


A memo to council members and the press before Monday's meeting said the public hearing would be opened and then continued to Jan. 24, when a vote would be taken. The vote was to be delayed because a council member requested police provide a report on the dangers of the product and the report wasn't included in council packets due to lack of time around the holidays.


Two people spoke at the opening of the public hearing Monday. The council then debated for about a half hour on whether to vote Monday.


"I don't believe we can afford to wait," Perrotto said. "We as citizens of Janesville need to act now when there is something that is clearly harmful to our children."


Perrotto said "common sense" should prevail rather than protocol when it comes to children's safety. He doubted the vote would change in two weeks, anyway.


Said Councilman Yuri Rashkin: "There's no question in my mind that we need to protect children. ... But I do believe in the importance of doing things in the right way. I'm very conscious when government looks at banning rights of individuals. We must proceed with extreme caution. I really do not understand the burning desire to vote on this tonight."


Perrotto and Councilman Russ Steeber voted for a decision to be made Monday. Councilwoman Kathy Voskuil and Rashkin voted to delay the vote, and Councilman George Brunner abstained. Councilmen Bill Truman and Tom McDonald were absent.


Brunner said he hopes the vote gets the attention of the state Legislature and prompts it to also ban the substance.



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