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‘Mixture’ definition gets vetoed

Published (6/1/2010)
By Mike Cook
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A weighty issue can mean dissimilar penalties for people using the same amount of drugs.

The weight of an entire mixture can now be used when charging decisions are made regarding illegal use of a controlled substance, even if the drug residue is only a small part of the mixture.

Sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), a bill sought to amend the definition of “mixture” in first- through third-degree controlled substance crimes. It would have established that “the weight of fluid used in a water pipe may not be considered in measuring the weight of a mixture, except in cases where the mixture contains four or more fluid ounces of fluid.”

It was vetoed by Gov Tim Pawlenty, who in his veto letter, said the bill “waters down current criminal justice practices and standards related to the weight of controlled substances found in water pipes.”

The problem came to light in 2008 when a defendant was charged with a first-degree controlled substance offense because they possessed bong water that contained a residue of methamphetamine. Even though the bong water had just a small amount of residue, the mixture’s total weight was used to charge the person with the more serious drug offense. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last year the charge was appropriate under the current definition of mixture.

Supporters said current law allows small-time drug users to be punished as major dealers.

HF2757/ SF3145*/CH367

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