Bill tackling synthetic drugs signed into Minnesota lawThe bill, authored by Duluth’s Sen. Roger Reinert, makes selling certain synthetic drugs, compounds meant to mimic the effects of the actual drugs, a five-year felony offense. It currently is a gross misdemeanor.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Friday a bill that will allow stronger enforcement and stiffer penalties on synthetic drugs.
The bill, authored by Duluth’s Sen. Roger Reinert, makes selling certain synthetic drugs, compounds meant to mimic the effects of the actual drugs, a five-year felony offense. It currently is a gross misdemeanor.
It also allows the state pharmacy board to add drugs to the list of illegal substances, which supporters said would help the state keep up as compounds change.
The pharmacy board must notify the Legislature when it adds a drug to the list, and lawmakers must approve the change during the next session. The expedited rulemaking also will be re-evaluated in two years.
Duluth’s Superior Street shop Last Place On Earth brought extra attention to synthetic drugs the past year, leading to a police raid and plenty of public comment about the sale of the drugs.
“Synthetic drugs are the issue I get asked about almost daily,” Reinert said. “People want to know when the bill will be enacted, and my response is that it could not come soon enough.”
The new law will go into effect Aug. 1.
Last Place owner Jim Carlson said Friday that he was waiting until the bill was signed and will now study it to find out what direction he will go.
“My attorney just thinks we’ll change chemicals,” Carlson said, lamenting the fact that the banned chemical list gets longer each year.
Carlson said that after a ban on the chemical that most closely resembled those found in marijuana went into effect, new chemicals were found. He worries about how bills like the one signed Friday will change the makeup of his products.
“They sway further away,” he said of the makers of the synthetics. “And the more iffy they get.”
Duluth police raided the shop in September, seizing synthetic drugs sold there as well as $83,510 in cash, computers and 28 guns. Police say they are continuing to investigate the items taken in the raid and in March State District Court Judge Shaun Floerke denied Carlson’s motion that the evidence police seized while executing their search warrant be returned.
Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay testified in St. Paul earlier this year in support of the bill and said he was happy to hear the news of its getting through the Legislative session because, if the law were in effect today, synthetic sales at Last Place would likely all be illegal.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Ramsay said. “This gives us leverage to deal with what’s going on downtown.”
He said allowing the immediate addition of banned chemicals through the pharmacy board will allow law enforcement to keep up with the changing makeup of the drugs.
Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth said “we have people ending up in ER rooms every night because of an overdose on these drugs. We don’t know what’s in them – and it’s bought legally.”
Carlson said he would like the synthetics to be treated like any other controlled product such as cigarettes or alcohol. He said doing that would force manufacturers to list ingredients and follow strict guidelines on sales. And he said he’d prefer to be in the business of selling marijuana legally in the state. He said he recently donated $5,000 to the Minnesota chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, a group trying to change laws in the country to take punitive restrictions off marijuana use.