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House approves synthetic drug crackdown amid concern about prison overcrowding

Bill sponsor Barrett: "More needs to be done because of the inherent complexity of synthetic drugs."
Bill sponsor Barrett: "More needs to be done because of the inherent complexity of synthetic drugs."

Yesterday, with a 120-11 vote, the Minnesota House approved another synthetic drug crackdown.

The bill criminalizes 250 more chemicals, slaps more severe penalties on those who sell synthetic pot, and streamlines the process by which the state Pharmacy Board can add new chemicals to the illegal list. A similar companion bill awaits floor action in the Senate.

Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Shafer, sponsored the bill. He said, "the goal of this legislation is to help stop this emerging problem before it becomes a larger health crisis."

Barrett said he believes imposing stiffer penalties on those who sell synthetic pot will finally motivate stores to remove illegal products from shelves.

"They feel that paying a small fine is a good business decision," he said. "We want to change this concept from a business decision to whether they want to spend five years in prison."

But Rep. Tom Rukavina, D-Virginia, said he's concerned that the "well intended" bill could put hundreds more people behind bars and place a financial burden on the state.

"You may be trying to do good things, but it's going to have a real negative impact," Rukavina said before voting against the legislation.

Related coverage:
-- For second straight year, synthetic drug crackdown advancing through legislature
-- Synthetic drug ban will go into effect Friday, judge orders
-- Head shops sue Minnesota over synthetic pot ban
-- K2 and the synthetic marijuana boom


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