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Minnesota Legislature

New Law: Synthetic marijuana banned

Published (7/15/2011)
By Mike Cook
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Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is a mix of common herbs sprayed with synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. It is sold in head shops and in stores as incense or potpourri under names like Demon, Triple X and Mr. Nice Guy, but is being used as an inhalant for people to get high. There is no minimum age to purchase the product.

Effective July 1, 2011, it will be a gross misdemeanor to sell synthetic marijuana and a person in possession of such a substance will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), who sponsors the law with Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), said it has been known to cause serious health problems, including seizures. In the first 11 months of 2010 there were more than 2,500 calls nationwide to poison control centers because of synthetic marijuana use. It has been banned in 17 countries and 11 other states.

Effective May 25, 2011, the law amends the definition of “mixture” in first- through third-degree controlled substance possession crimes. It establishes 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.” Law enforcement can still charge sale offenses based on total weight of the mixture. This provision is from HF479/ SF502, sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul).

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 defendant with the more serious drug offense. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in 2009 the charge was appropriate under the current definition of mixture.

This provision was overwhelmingly approved in 2010, but vetoed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who said the bill “waters down current criminal justice practices and standards related to the weight of controlled substances found in water pipes.”

Substances known as 2C-E and 2C-I, “plant food,” “bath salts” and synthetic cannabinoids will be added to the Schedule I drugs in the controlled substances chapter of state law, effective July 1, 2011. This is from HF1359, sponsored by Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Shafer).

These substances, which provide an amphetamine/hallucinogen-like high and can produce severe psychological and behavioral problems, have been accessible through head shops and online. In March 2011, a 19-year-old in Blaine died and 10 others became seriously ill from using these drugs.

Effective July 1, 2011, the definition of “analog” is added to the controlled substances chapter of state law; thereby, allowing the Board of Pharmacy to automatically add a substance to a list of Schedule I drugs that are illegal without having to first get legislative approval. This is from HF1520/ SF1333, sponsored by Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Mpls).

Finally, the law eliminates the board’s obligation to undertake an annual review of the controlled substance schedules. This is effective Aug. 1, 2011.

HF57*/ SF1166/CH53

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