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South Bend common council cracks down on synthetic marijuana

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--

The city’s common council is looking to push harsher penalties for selling synthetic and imitation marijuana in order to save lives.

“There’s just enough that can make somebody’s life go wrong without being exposed to these harmful drugs,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The common council introduced an ordinance Monday to address this problem.

“These drugs are dangerous, they can and will kill you, we’ve seen it happen,” said Ken Garcia of the South Bend Police Department. “And it’s something that we need to get off the streets.”

Police say copycat cannabis can cripple this community.

“We don’t want overdoses taking place,” said Garcia. “There is an opioid issue going on in our community and this is something we don’t need as well.”

It’s a problem that’s already starting to rear its ugly head.

According to Beacon Health, there were 981 visits to the ER in 2016 due to synthetic cannabis at South Bend Memorial.

More than 40 percent suffered from drug abuse, and the largest demographic abusing the drug rounded the ages of 20 to 29.

But the people working on solutions say this drug knows no age limit.

“These people were at most, to my eye, maybe 15 to 16 years old,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “There’s no age that’s the right age to experience an overdose.”

Back in January, the mayor and others tried helping three teens overdosing on the streets.

It’s something he’ll never forget and it fuels the fight with the city’s war on drugs.

“What we really want to do is do something about it now and send a message sooner than later so people have an understanding these are not safe products,” said the mayor.

So the common council decided to do something.

It’s putting an ordinance on the books to crack down.

Bill 46-17 adds lookalike drugs to the list of prohibited substances so it can be distinguished from the already banned synthetic drugs.

It would also go after businesses pushing them, not just drug dealers.

“What we’re doing is bringing forth an ordinance that would fine a person $2500 if they’re selling, giving that out to people and that would also include businesses, and there’s an opportunity that business could lose their license in the city,” said Common Council President Tim Scott.

The council will vote on that ordinance at the August 14th meeting.

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