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Our view: Finally, progress to combat synthetics

No one has to tell Duluthians how the scourge of synthetics can tear apart a community, run down a business district or leave a trail of heartache, medical emergencies and worse. We were on the front line for way too long, left screaming for help from the state many of us became convinced would never arrive.

But led by a state representative from Duluth, the Minnesota Legislature finally is offering communities like Duluth tools to fight back against the destruction of synthetics, to rid our streets of its criminal activity and to free our emergency rooms of its dangerous fallout. On Wednesday the Minnesota House voted 130-0 in support of a bill that would hamper “the drug makers’ ability to create new poisons” and stay ahead of law enforcement, Rep. Erik Simonson of Duluth said.

“Passage of this bill is good for Minnesota, and it’s good for all Minnesotans,” Simonson said in a statement yesterday provided exclusively to the News Tribune Opinion page. “We know that use of synthetic (drugs) is sadly prevalent across Minnesota, and teens and young adults continue to face addiction to what is all too often marketed as ‘legal’ or ‘safe.’ This bill will stop the retail sales of synthetic drugs across Minnesota. It will send a strong message to potential retailers that not only will you face legal consequences for breaking the law; there will be large financial implications if convicted.”

The legislation expands the definition of “drug” to include compounds not regulated or approved for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or by Minnesota law and, when ingested or otherwise introduced to the body, induces an effect similar to using illicit drugs.

The legislation also grants cease-and-desist power to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy to stop retailers from selling these products, calls for mandatory restitution, and appropriates $163,000 to the Department of Human Services next year to increase public awareness of the dangers of synthetics. The education would be targeted especially to children and young adults.

Simonson last year was appointed chairman of the Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs. The committee held meetings throughout the state, including a standing-room-only crowd in Duluth, before authoring the sensible legislation that’s garnering bipartisan support. The bill can be made law. And if it still isn’t enough it can be made even stronger in the future. No community should be on this front line.