Black Mamba to be banned Jan. 1

By Shadonna Merriweather

An herbal blend that gets users high and is currently legal in Illinois will be banned starting Jan. 1, and local merchants that sell the substance are responding to the ban.

“Both students and people from the town buy it to smoke it,” said Abraham Mustafa, owner of Smokers World, 818 W. Lincoln Highway #3.

One-hundred percent pure damiana sprayed with synthetic marijuana is known to be a substitute or replacement for marijuana, despite the “not for human consumption” label on it. This product has many other aliases such as: Red Magic, Bombay Blue, K2 or Bliss and can be bought in tobacco shops and liquor stores, some of which are near the NIU campus.

The product is sometimes sold as incense.

“We carry hundreds of incense here…we could carry it, but I choose not to because college students are buying and smoking it,” said Kenny Weinstock, owner of Out on a Whim, 127 E. Lincoln Highway. “Its getting kids sick.”

The sales of the substance for some places have decreased due to the popularity of it.

“We still sell it, but our sales have slowed down mainly because every place sells it now,” Mustafa said. “We used to be the only one.”

Some stores main advertisement of the product is centered around it being used for therapy.

“[Our store] sells the product as aromatherapy,” said an employee of Shadowlands, 1027 W. Hillcrest. “I just have some to put on the shelves, not enough to compete with the liquor store Lundeen’s next door.”

Lundeen’s Discount Liquors, 1030 Arcadia Drive, carries a variety of the substance.

“We’re not setting the world on fire, what people do is what people do,” said Carl Ray, Lundeen’s employee. Lundeen’s employees, however, say they are not impressed by the products performance.

“Its been out for some time now and it’s really not that serious, our tobacco products still sell out more than that stuff,” said Robert Hernandez Lundeen’s employee.

An NIU student who wished to remain anonymous said they have used the substance as a drug but didn’t like the effects.

“Personally I felt as though it was really weak, it does not get you as high as marijuana, but I know other people that think it does,” the student said.

Some stores feel the drug is not a threat to tobacco products.

“All of our incense do real well, but it sells less than my tobacco products,” the Shadowlands employee said.

In July, Illinois passed a law banning synthetic cannabinoid products, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2011. The herbal substance falls into this category.

The ban is not causing much concern for some local stores.

“We have been here for ten years, it will not kill us when we have to stop selling it,” Mustafa said.

Lundeen’s employees had similar feelings.

“It will not affect this business,” Ray said. “A new incense is coming out, and the only difference is there will be a chemical change.”