Chicago's ban on the sale of synthetic marijuana officially takes effect Wednesday ahead of an Illinois law that bans fake pot throughout the state after Jan. 1.
Under Chicago's ordinance, any local business selling synthetic pot must immediately remove the products from store shelves or face fines of up to $1,000 for each offense and possible revocation of their business license.
Ald. Ed Burke and Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined forces Tuesday to warn businesses they'll be watching.
"The fact that to this point these products have remained legal and readily accessible has created an illusion that they are safe," Burke said. "They clearly are not safe."
Synthetic marijuana, sold under names such as K2, K4 White Widow, Black Mamba, Spice, Purple Haze and Zombie Matter, is spiked with chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. In the past two years, the sale and use of the fakes exploded not only in Illinois but across the country, Madigan said.
"I have heard from multiple police who have received an increasing number of calls about individuals who have consumed these synthetic drugs," she said, "and they have become very violent, very paranoid and very dangerous."
To prove the accessibility of the drug, Burke said his staff easily purchased synthetic marijuana at seven locations, including gas stations, across Chicago in a week for $10 to $20 per gram.
"By banning the sale of all products containing any substance that mimics the effects of the active ingredient in marijuana or THC, the Chicago ordinance will close illegal loopholes that have permitted these dangerous products to remain on store shelves," Burke said.
Under the new Illinois, taking effect Jan. 1, all known fake pot products will be classified as illegal.
Anyone who sells products containing synthetic marijuana could be charged with a Class 3 felony and face 5 years in prison and a $150,000 fine. Anyone who possesses it could face a Class 4 felony, up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
“Young people are being poisoned by these extraordinarily dangerous chemicals," said Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow in a statement. "It was our obligation as law enforcement officials and as legislators to pass a law banning the possession and sale of every form of synthetic marijuana in Illinois.”