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For second straight year, synthetic drug crackdown advancing through legislature

Legislators apparently don't think last year's synthetic drug ban went far enough.
Legislators apparently don't think last year's synthetic drug ban went far enough.

For the second consecutive session, a bill cracking down on synthetic drugs is advancing through the Minnesota legislature.

Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee approved a bill that would reclassify selling synthetic drugs as a felony and expedite the process by which Minnesota's Board of Pharmacy can outlaw new synthetic mind-altering substances. The bill will soon come before the full Senate.

Last May, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a synthetic drug ban into law, but synthetic drug manufacturers continue to slightly alter the chemical makeup of their products in order to keep them on store shelves.

During Wednesday's testimony, Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said "you hear it called synthetic marijuana from time to time, but this is more akin to LSD."

Given that lawmakers believe synthetic marijuana is akin to LSD, it makes sense that they're trying to reclassify pseudo pot as a Schedule One substance. Hence, under the proposed bill, sellers could get up to five years in prison.

Rep. Barrett believes the threat of prison time might act as a deterrent for those selling synthetic drugs.
Rep. Barrett believes the threat of prison time might act as a deterrent for those selling synthetic drugs.

Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Shafer, is author the House version of the bill, which like the Senate version should also come before the full chamber soon. Regarding the stiffer penalties for selling, he said "maybe the threat of jail time will get the message across that we don't want one more death in Minnesota as a result of these dangerous drugs."

Another component of the bill would streamline the process by which the state can ban new concoctions as manufacturers try and stay ahead of the law.

To ban a new substance, the pharmacy board would have to determine the substance has a high potential for misuse, no currently accepted medical use, and known adverse effects, among other factors.

Jim Carlson, owner of Duluth's Last Place On Earth, said that as was the case last year, he doesn't expect the new bill, if it becomes law, to pose insurmountable problems for those in the synthetic drugs business.

"I don't think it's going to change a whole lot," he said. "Our attorneys are going to challenge the law, so we are going to fight it."


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