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Synthetic Marijuana Poisonings

In this June 29, 2016, file photo, a man holds a bag of synthetic marijuana in Houston.

AP

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers are weighing legislation to prevent synthetic marijuana manufacturers from dodging laws banning the substance.

The state Senate passed a measure this week to ban all types of synthetic cannabinoids instead of just specific formulas, The Chicago Tribune reported. The bill is now in the House for consideration.

The proposed measure would subject those manufacturing or delivering the substances to as much as $25,000 in fines and two to five years in prison. Possession could result in a year-long jail sentence.

Illinois has passed several laws to ban synthetic marijuana, but manufacturers often change the formula to skirt the rules. There were more than 80 formula variations in 2015, up from just two in 2009, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"What this bill does is it closes that loophole," said Sen. Jacqueline Collins, a Democrat from Chicago sponsoring the legislation. "Right now you can go into many of these corner stores on the South and West Side and see these drugs on display. It's very popular, it's cheap and easy access, but it's deadly."

The effort comes after public health officials recently reported that a fourth person in Illinois died after using synthetic cannabinoids authorities believed were laced with rat poison. More than 160 others have been sickened by the substance and have coughed up blood or had blood in their urine, nose or gums, according to health officials. Most cases have been in the Chicago or Peoria areas.

Synthetic cannabinoids are a man-made mixture of chemicals affecting the same brain cell receptors as THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. The substance is often sold and branded as "Spice" or "K2."

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