The fight against synthetic drugs

Calling together for a town hall meeting members of a team fighting the use and sale of synthetic drugs, state Sen. Kyle McCarter asked those attending the meeting to join the team.
McCarter, a Republican from Lebanon, set up the town hall meeting to educate the public on synthetic drugs, a growing problem throughout the state.
The senator explained that Senate Bill 1129 that will help the law enforcement community prosecute synthetic drug cases had been approved by state legislators and was sitting on the desk of Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat.
McCarter urged the crowd of about 50 people to contact Madigan, asking him to send the bill onto Gov. Bruce Rauner, so that Rauner can make it a new law.
“This is not a bill that can save money,” McCarter said. “It’s a bill that will save lives.
“It’s not going to cost the state of Illinois one cent; it will cost lives,” he said.
McCarter said that the effort to create the new law began about four years ago.
“The ball got rolling with Josh (Morrison, Fayette County state’s attorney),” McCarter said. “Josh and his assistant (Amanda Ade-Harlow) have been very helpful with this.
“It’s about the lives that are lost and the changes that are needed,” he said.
Morrison said after the meeting that McCarter “gave us a chance to be a part of the bill. Amanda and I both had input on this, and we appreciate him letting us be a part of this.”
Morrison said that when he took over as state’s attorney, the use and sale of synthetic drugs “was not as pervasive as it is now.”
Displaying some packages of synthetic drugs, Morrison said that they are “brightly packaged, pretty.
“They are not being packaged for adults; it’s being packaged for children,” he said.
“This stuff will cause great bodily harm to anyone who takes it,” Morrison said. “This stuff is horribly addictive, and it is poison from the ground up.
“The process (of making and selling synthetic drugs) needs to stop, and we have started to see that that happens,” he said, adding that his office is “one of the only counties doing this.”
Morrison also said that his office has made a strong effort to make sure that synthetic drugs are not sold over the counter at local businesses.
“We’ve gotten word to them, if you sell it, we will prosecute you,” Morrison said.
Fayette County Sheriff Chris Smith said, “We know that the police cannot do it alone – we need community involvement.”
Smith said that while transporting some inmates who have used synthetic drugs, he’s asked them about their use. “They said that it’s the most addictive thing they’ve put in their bodies.”
Tim Tripp, a state police crime lab bureau chief, explained that synthetic drugs are nothing “chemicals sprayed on potpourri.”
The fight to get rid of synthetic drugs, Tripp said, “has been a long, hard road.”
One reason, he said, is that “the minute you introduce a bill to control” what’s used in their production, the makers of the drugs “figure out what they can tweak to get around that bill.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said.
Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County’s state’s attorney, said that synthetic drugs are “taking people’s lives, destroying their lives, robbing their brains.”
He said that the people making the synthetic drugs “are not chemists – they’re just guys trying to make a buck.
“You don’t know what you’re getting,” Kelly said, adding that because the chemicals are sprayed onto the potpourri, the effect on the user is “sometimes light and sometimes intense.”
Jane Kwiatkowski, the mental health and substance abuse coordinator for the Community Resource Center, said that with the use of drugs, “There is a chemical change in the brain that takes a very, very, very, very long time to change.
“With synthetic drugs, the chemical changes in the braing are much more long lasting and much more severe,” she said.
At the close of the meeting, McCarter again asked those in the audience to contact Madigan’s office, 1-217-782-5350, to urge that Madigan pass the bill onto Rauner for his signature.
He said that instead of dealing with issues such as this, Madigan and other legislators are haggling over a budget, and that the bill “flew right through the Senate and right through the House.
“For us to delay this is ridiculous. To delay this because of the budget is absurd,” McCarter said.
“There shouldn’t be any delay.”

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