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Synthetic drug deterrence approved

Published (3/9/2012)
By Mike Cook
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A plan to help keep synthetic or designer drugs off the streets and out of neighborhoods received the approval of a House committee.

In addition to enhancing the penalty for selling these substances to a felony, HF2508, sponsored by Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Shafer), would expand the list of synthetic substances and grant the Board of Pharmacy expedited rulemaking authority to handle new chemical formulas used by drug producers.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said the bill would “send a clear message that these substances are not safe or legal.”

Approved March 1 by the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, the bill was sent to the House Government Operations and Elections Committee. There is no Senate companion.

The bill piggybacks on a 2011 law that added substances known as 2C-E and 2C-I, “plant food,” “bath salts” and synthetic cannabinoids to the Schedule I drugs in the controlled substances chapter of state law, and made a gross misdemeanor to sell synthetic marijuana and a person in possession of such a substance will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Board of Pharmacy, said last year’s law has had a positive effect in the war on drugs. “A lot of shops that were selling these drugs are no longer selling them. But there are few shop owners who do not seem to have gotten the message.”

Barrett said two primary groups use these drugs. “There are young people who are experimenting and may not know what these drugs are and what the harmful effect of these drugs are, and there are older drug users who see these synthetic drugs as the ultimate high because of the fact that they are much more powerful. Often these drugs have been called cocaine on steroids.”

Stanek said a federal report released in December estimated that slightly more than one in 10 high school seniors have used synthetic marijuana.

Supporters said making it felonious to sell synthetic drugs will hopefully make some sellers decide what they’re doing isn’t worth the potential price of a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.

With the money they’re bringing in, it’s currently worth it for these shops to pay the fine for a misdemeanor, said Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.

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