Head shops sue Minnesota over synthetic pot ban

Is Minnesota's ban on synthetic pot unconstitutional?

Is Minnesota's ban on synthetic pot unconstitutional?

The war on synthetic drugs is far from over.

A lawyer representing several head shops filed a lawsuit today against the state of Minnesota, alleging that a statewide ban on synthetic pot is unconstitutional and not supported by scientific evidence.

A hearing is scheduled in Hennepin County Wednesday morning where a judge will rule on a temporary restraining order, which would postpone the ban from going into effect this Friday.

"Their determination is based on anecdotal evidence," says Mark Kurzman, the attorney representing three companies that collectively own seven head shops. "It's just based on stories that have no scientific backup."

Kurzman filed a federal suit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency last December, alleging the federal ban on five of the most commonly used synthetic drugs violated the U.S. Constitution.

The DEA said Kurzman and his clients "jumped the gun" -- the ban wasn't even in effect yet.

Kurzman quickly shot back: "They're the ones jumping the gun," he told City Pages in January. "They're trying to make it a felony to sell these substances, but they have no evidence that they're dangerous, other than a collection of random press reports."

A judge dismissed the suit later that month.

The lawsuit filed today says the Minnesota Legislature didn't take scientific evidence into account when considering the ban, and instead relied on unverifiable stories told by law enforcement agents. Kurzman says the law is also phrased in a way that is far too confusing for the average Minnesotan to comprehend.

"They wrote the law in the way that was overly broad and prevents a regular person from figuring out what is legal and what is illegal," says Kurzman.

Though he hasn't seen the complaint yet and couldn't comment on the specifics, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says the lawsuit's timing is strange.

"It's highly unusual to enjoin any law before the date of its implementation or until there are cases resulting from that law," says Freeman in a statement. "And finally, this would not meet even the broadest interpretation of the courts' ruling on standing and justiciability as set forth in Griswold vs. Connecticut and Roe vs. Wade."

A message left with Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson's office was not immediately returned.

The hearing will take place at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Hennepin County government center.

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