Senate committee passes tougher synthetic drug billA Minnesota Senate Committee on Wednesday night approved legislation that would make selling some synthetic drugs a felony and reclassifies some as a more-serious narcotic.
By: Forum Communications, Duluth News Tribune
ST. PAUL — A Minnesota Senate Committee on Wednesday night approved legislation that would make selling some synthetic drugs a felony and reclassifies some as a more-serious narcotic.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, cleared the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee after Capitol testimony by Duluth officials, including Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.
“You hear it called synthetic marijuana from time to time, but this is more akin to LSD,’’ Ramsay said. “There are enormous safety issues and health concerns for the people of Duluth.”
The bill now goes to the Senate floor, and a similar bill is headed to the House floor. A felony can bring up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Selling synthetic marijuana now is a gross misdemeanor.
“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,” said bill author Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Shafer.
The synthetic drug problem received notice last year after the Last Place on Earth in Duluth was raided and its owner arrested for selling the stuff even after being notified not to. Duluth, Moorhead and other cities’ officials have tried to stop the sale of synthetic drugs in local businesses.
The bill adds some new substances to the list of illegal synthetic drugs. But people have been tweaking formulas slightly and continued selling essentially the same drugs, Barrett said.
The bill also would allow the state Board of Pharmacy to use an expedited process to outlaw dangerous drugs, making it easier to keep up with new synthetic drugs as they are discovered, he said.
“This would allow us to deal with immediate health threats,” said Board of Pharmacy Director Cody Wiberg.