Synthetic drug deterrence approved

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It isn’t easy for law enforcement to keep up with the changing compounds of synthetic drugs, but legislators are again trying to help.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Shafer), HF2508 would enhance the penalty for selling such substances to a felony, would expand the list of synthetic substances and would grant the Board of Pharmacy expedited rulemaking authority to handle new chemical formulas used by drug producers.

“This bill will help keep synthetic drugs — also called designer drugs — out of Minnesota storefronts and off of Minnesota streets by making it more difficult to sell them,” Barrett said. “The goal of this legislation is to help stop this emerging problem before it becomes a larger health crisis like so many other illegal drugs already are, including methamphetamines.”

Approved 120-11 by the House, it now goes to the Senate where Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) is the sponsor.

The bill piggybacks on a 2011 law that added substances known as 2C-E and 2C-I, “plant food,” “bath salts” and synthetic cannabinoids to the Schedule I drugs in the controlled substances chapter of state law; made it a gross misdemeanor to sell synthetic marijuana; and make possession a misdemeanor.

While the law had a positive effect in the war on drugs, not all shops are in compliance, instead willing to pay the small fine for a misdemeanor in order to keep doing business. Supporters said making it felonious to sell synthetic drugs will hopefully make some sellers decide what they’re doing isn’t worth the potential price of a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.

“Maybe this will get the message across the state that we don’t want one more death in Minnesota as a result of these dangerous drugs,” Barrett said.

Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls) noted that synthetic drugs can be far more dangerous than the actual product.

“While synthetic cannabinoids may seem similar to marijuana, they are nothing like marijuana,” Barrett said. “They are 10 to 100 times more powerful. … These are harsh drugs.”