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Evansville approves ban of synthetic pot

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GINA R. HEINE
January 12, 2011
— Evansville is joining the growing number of communities across the state enacting local ordinances prohibiting the sale, possession or use of synthetic marijuana.

The Evansville City Council approved a ban Tuesday night, one day after the Janesville City Council passed a similar ban.


Evansville Police Chief Scott McElroy said the city hasn't yet had a problem with the products.


"That's why I want to get a jump on it," he said.


He discussed the issue with police in Milton and Janesville and liked what they were doing.


"We just needed to do the same thing," he said. "And I hope other communities jump on board."


The municipal ticket for a first offense in Evansville will be $681.


Synthetic marijuana products often are marketed as an "herbal" or "incense" with disclaimer labels that say the product is not intended for human consumption.


That's part of the problem, McElroy said, because it's being marketed as something other than what it really is.


"It's deceiving, and people don't really know what they're getting themselves into," he said.


Common street or trade names of the substance are "Spice," "K2," "Genie," "Yucatan Fire," "Mr. Smiley," and "fake" or "new" marijuana.


Janesville police said in a report presented to the Janesville City Council on Monday that the ingredients in the substances mimic the high of marijuana and cause side affects such as nausea, anxiety and increased heart rate. Police said people use the products as a marijuana substitute to increase creativity, reduce stress, experience euphoria, increase personal insight and increase appreciation for the arts.


Milton and Clinton became the first area communities to approve bans last year after reports of people becoming ill after using the substances.


Evansville City Council President Mason Braunschweig said he took advice from public safety authorities about the dangers of the products and use of it around the county.


"It seems like something that is a no-brainer to me," he said.


In August, a 15-year-old Milton girl told police she took three or four hits from "Space," and that was the last thing she remembered until waking up in the emergency room, according to a Milton police report. The girl had smoked the substance with friends before falling to the ground, convulsing, vomiting and entering a lower level of consciousness, according to the report.


Also in Milton last year, police reported a Milton man was treated medically after ingesting a synthetic cannabis product. The man reportedly went unconscious during an incident police called an "overdose."


In Clinton, three people called for medical assistance and were taken to a hospital for observation Nov. 7 after smoking "Purple Magic," a type of synthetic marijuana marketed as "herbal incense," Clinton Village Administrator Philip Rath previously told the Gazette.


Rath said that incident prompted village police and officials to draft the village ban.


McElroy noted state legislators are working on a ban at the state level, but he said the city wanted to move faster with its own ordinance.


The state Department of Justice is reviewing the language of a draft bill for a statewide ban, said Andrew Nowlan, research assistant for Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, sponsor of the bill.


"Our hope is to have things moving in the first quarter of this year," he said.


New Evansville alderwoman appointed

The City Council on Tuesday night appointed Cheryl Fuchs, 409 S. First St., to serve as the District 2 alderperson until the April election.


The seat became vacant when Janis Ringhand resigned Nov. 30 ahead of her inauguration last week to the 80th Assembly District seat. The timing of Ringhand's resignation required that her council seat be placed on the April ballot. The winner will fill the one year remaining of Ringhand's term.


Fuchs was the only candidate to file papers to run for the partial term in April.


Because she was the only candidate, the city decided to get her on board a few months early, officials said.


Fuchs also was appointed to the public works and public safety committees and as an alternate to the Evansville Fire District Board.



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