Superior considers ban on synthetic drugs

Speed is going to be of the essence when the city of Superior plunges ahead with a synthetic drug ordinance of its own, Superior Mayor Dave Ross said.

Synthetic marijuana
K2 is one brand name of a synthetic marijuana that was sold in Duluth. (Mark Vancleave / The Minnesota Daily)

Speed is going to be of the essence when the city of Superior plunges ahead with a synthetic drug ordinance of its own, Superior Mayor Dave Ross said.

After meeting Tuesday with a synthetic marijuana distributor who wants to set up shop in Superior, Ross plans to expedite efforts to get the ordinance to the City Council next week.

It is a ban the city has been working on for a while, Ross said. His goal is to make it a more comprehensive ordinance than the one adopted by the Duluth City Council on Monday night.

"We need to close the window quickly," Ross said. "I don't view this as economic development. I view it as a threat to the city."

Ross said he was told there are a variety of synthetic drug formulations that mimic other drugs such as acid and crack and other illegal drugs that pose a greater risk to users.


Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters said many times laws are written to address specific aspects of drugs and someone in a lab will change the makeup of a drug to get around the law. He said among his goals is to inform and educate the public about the dangers of synthetic drugs.

Peters said Superior's ordinance is being modeled after one in Eau Claire, Wis. In July, the Eau Claire City Council adopted the ban.

One pair of communities already dealing with a cross-border difference in laws is Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn. Synthetic marijuana is illegal in North Dakota, but not in Minnesota and not in Moorhead.

Fargo police would like to see the drug banned in Minnesota.

"It's very convenient for people to travel across the border and obtain the drug and then come back to our city," said Sgt. Mat Sanders, who heads the Fargo Police Department's narcotics unit.

Since May 1, Fargo police have pursued 16 cases of possession of the substance, a Class C felony. First responders answered a call late Monday from a 21-year-old Fargo man who said he had overdosed on synthetic marijuana and needed help. He was taken by ambulance to a Fargo hospital, police said, but they wouldn't release information about his medical condition.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said there's been no push at the city level to ban the product, which is sold by three Moorhead shops.

"We've had no requests from either our police force or from any citizens or council members at this point that we should look at such a ban," he said. "With this incident in Duluth, I wouldn't be surprised if we hear something now."


Voxland said he expects the Minnesota Legislature to tackle the issue quickly next year. A city ban probably would have less bite than a statewide ban because violating city ordinances is generally a misdemeanor, Moorhead Police Lt. Tory Jacobson said.

Mayor Ross in Superior said his goal is to develop a comprehensive ordinance that doesn't leave any loopholes. While Superior city officials had looked at Duluth's ordinance, Ross said it didn't go far enough.

"I fully expect the states [Minnesota and Wisconsin] to ban these drugs, but we're going to be very aggressive to make sure they're not sold in Superior," Ross said. "We're going to take every step to protect the community."

Staff writer Mike Nowatzki of the Forum in Fargo contributed to this report.

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