Minnesota drug advisory council to hear Duluth concerns
A statewide advisory council will be in Duluth this week to hear from the public on concerns about synthetic drugs and other addictive substances. The forum, titled "Impact: Synthetic Drugs," will be led by the State of Minnesota Citizens Advisor...
A statewide advisory council will be in Duluth this week to hear from the public on concerns about synthetic drugs and other addictive substances.
The forum, titled "Impact: Synthetic Drugs," will be led by the State of Minnesota Citizens Advisory Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Science Center auditorium at the College of St. Scholastica.
Clyde Rogers of Duluth, a member of the advisory council for 20 years, was instrumental in bringing the group here for its yearly visit to a location outside of the Twin Cities. It was important to him that the forum take place on a college campus, he said.
"I wanted the kids up here to have an opportunity to hear what's really going on in the community," said Rogers, 78. "That's really why I chose St. Scholastica."
Fliers have been sent out not only to St. Scholastica but to the University of Minnesota Duluth, the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Lake Superior College and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in hopes of bringing a large group of students to the event, Rogers said.
St. Scholastica's CLEAN Connect recovery network is a partner with the advisory council in presenting the forum. The group was set up to help students who are in long-term recovery from addictions, said Ben Bertsch, program coordinator for the past five years.
Generally, about a dozen students take part in the group, Bertsch said. Synthetic drugs have been "part of the history" for a handful of those students, he said. But opiates -- misused prescription drugs -- have more typically been the problem, he added.
Still, it was synthetic drugs sold at the Last Place on Earth that placed a statewide spotlight on Duluth this year. "I felt as though Duluth was the point of the spear in regards to the legislation that was to be considered," Rogers said.
State Rep. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is chairman of a House committee exploring legislation about the sale and use of synthetic drugs. Even though the Last Place on Earth is closed and owner Jim Carlson in jail, the advisory council wants to look at those issues and offer its findings on possible legislation, Rogers said.
"This can move to areas throughout the state unless the Legislature takes definitive action," he said.
But Rogers also wanted the council to come to Duluth because it had been a number of years since they had been here, he said. He wants them to learn about the "good programs up here and good people up here" in treating chemical dependency.
Bertsch said the discussion should move beyond synthetics.
"What I would hope would come out of this is that we have a discussion less about the destruction of synthetic drugs but using that as a platform to talk about the epidemic of addiction," he said.
Legalizing marijuana isn't a planned topic of conversation, both men said, but could be brought up by the public. Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, proposed legislation this year that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The bill was deferred until next year's session.
Although Melin's legislation speaks only to medical uses of the drug, voters in four U.S. cities voted last week to legalize small amounts for recreational use, the New York Times reported. And Colorado voters agreed to a tax on marijuana after voting last year to legalize it.
Rogers said such issues need to be looked at carefully.
"The decision is more than a money decision," he said. "The decision also has to be made on the concern for those people that would choose to use it and the ramifications that would come with that."
Bertsch said he hopes the question is asked. But he, too, has reservations. It makes sense in terms of tax revenue and controlling the substance, Bertsch said. "But I think anytime you make drugs more accessible it creates problems."
The 10-member advisory council will stay in Duluth to have their regular meeting on the St. Scholastica campus on Friday morning. That meeting is not open to the public.