A picnic will be held in Aurora Saturday to honor a teen that lost his life one year ago.
The Max Dobner Memorial Picnic will be held this at Phillips Park-Parker Avenue West in Aurora. The picnic is scheduled to go from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Dobner’s mother Karen has gathered donors for food, music and games, so admission to the picnic is free for all. She wants the guests to celebrate Max’s life and support the work done in his name against synthetic drugs.
Synthetic drugs are manmade drugs intended to mimic the effects of actual drugs like marijuana, albeit with random and sometimes deadly side effects. Users have reported seizures, paranoia, panic attacks and more after consuming the drugs.
Synthetic marijuana was once disguised as incense or potpourri, and made widely available in gas stations, conveniences stores and tobacco stores in the Chicago suburbs, including Batavia and St. Charles. The products have since been banned.
Illinois has led the way in the battle against synthetic drugs in the U.S. Illinois might be the only state in the country that has seen a decrease in the number of calls to poison control centers related to synthetic drugs, according to the To The Maximus Foundation.
Illinois Poison Control centers report that in 2011, there were 338 calls regarding synthetic marijuana. As of May 31, 2012, there have only been 67 calls.
Here is a recap of how the drugs came to light in this area, and how they were shut down:
The Fight Begins
Karen Dobner said synthetic marijuana was the cause of her son’s fatal car crash in Batavia Township on June 14, 2011. On that day, Max Dobner and a friend purchased a potpourri substance sold legally at the time inside a tobacco shop in Westfield Fox Valley Mall in Aurora.
Dobner and his friend proceeded to smoke the substance, and later that day Dobner experienced heart palpitations and a panic attack. In a frenzied state, Dobner got into his car and traveled east at a high rate of speed on Mooseheart Road. He crossed Route 31 and crashed into a house, suffering blunt force head trauma. No one else was hurt in the incident, but Dobner did not survive. He was 19.
Once Karen Dobner discovered that synthetic marijuana was involved, she spoke out publicly and repeatedly against the drugs, its harmful effects and the manufacturers and stores that kept the drugs in Aurora, Batavia and many other cities in the area.
In the summer of 2011, she created the To The Maximus Foundation, which focused on educating people about synthetic drugs and also eradicating the substances.
Change is Made
In the fall of 2011, individual cities began to ban synthetic drugs before a statewide ban went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. The problems and prevalence of these drugs also caught the attention of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who launched "Operation Smoke Out" in December 2011, to target retail stores selling synthetic drugs. As part of this effort, retailers have relinquished 25,000 packets of synthetic drugs worth an estimated $554,000.
On May 30, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation drafted by Madigan that will compliment the Jan. 1 ban on synthetic drugs.
HB (House Bill) 5233 will address the labeling and packaging of drugs that have misleading labels.
"(It classifies) as illegal any chemical that is sold to be taken as a drug, regardless of what it's called or how it's labeled" said Lisa Madigan in a press release. This measure will essentially eliminate use of the "Not for Human Consumption" stamp to bypass regulation of drug products being sold in stores.
Picnic in the Park
What: Max Dobner Memorial Picnic
Who: Join the Dobner Family, friends and supporters to celebrate Max’s life and the foundation named after him
When: 1 p.m to 6 p.m. this Saturday, June 16
Where: Philips Park (Parker Avenue West and Howell Place), Aurora. The event will be just south of Mastodon Lake.
Sales of To the Maximus Foundation merchandise at the picnic will go towards the purchase of a gravestone for Max Dobner.
To read more about Dobner’s fight against synthetic drugs, click here.
To read about the Tri Cities and other town banning the drugs, click here.
To read more about Max Dobner’s life, accomplishments and dreams, click here.