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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, February 24, 2011
ST. PAUL – With the recent news that six former Minnesota Valley Lutheran students were charged with possession of synthetic marijuana, State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Nelson Township) was pleased that the Minnesota House approved a bill Thursday that would ban this highly addictive and potentially lethal drug. “Most of us haven’t even heard of synthetic marijuana, but its use is skyrocketing among teenagers and its clear lawmakers need to take action,” Torkelson said. Synthetic marijuana is sold as herbal incense in tobacco shops and labeled "not for human consumption," but those who typically look for it want to use it as a drug. It’s made up of herbs and synthetic compounds that are similar to the natural chemical found in marijuana, and delivers a similar high, but can cause more serious reactions than regular pot, such as heart damage, seizures and severe delusions. Synthetic marijuana usage is growing at a rapid rate both in Minnesota and across the nation. A recent article noted that more than 2,000 calls had been made to poison control last year regarding this drug, up from 14 calls in 2009. So far, 16 states have banned the drug. As part of Minnesota’s initiative, a person selling the drug could face up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Possessing it carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. “With the recent news from New Ulm regarding synthetic marijuana, its clear this isn’t just a Metro Area problem,” Torkelson said. “The cons of selling this in tobacco shops far outweigh the pros because teens looking to get high could be risking their lives by consuming it. There’s no doubt in my mind that a synthetic marijuana ban is necessary.” Torkelson said the Minnesota Senate must approve the measure before it can be sent to Governor Dayton for his signature.