House votes to fight synthetic drugs
ST. PAUL — Minnesota representatives sent a strong message against synthetic drugs Wednesday, unanimously passing a bill to give a state agency more authority over them.
“If you are not seeing this in your community, it is because you are not looking hard enough,” Rep. Erik Simonson, D-Duluth, told fellow lawmakers.
The bill that passed 130-0 now moves to the Senate.
While his community has gained the most publicity about synthetic drugs, he said that the problems are seen across the state.
The use of synthetic drugs “continues to be a problem, especially among young people and at colleges,” he said.
The drugs, which often are designed to mimic illegal drugs, are sold under a variety of names, ranging from K2 to spice. Some are called bath salts.
Medical and law enforcement officials say synthetic drugs are just as dangerous as the better-known ones.
Officials in cities from Duluth to Moorhead have worked for years to shut down retail shops that legally sold synthetic drugs under other names.
The bill expands the definition of “drugs” in state law to encompass synthetic drugs. It also gives the state Pharmacy Board authority to order stores to stop selling the drugs.
“The bill is the result of extensive conversations we held around the state with those most affected by synthetic drugs: former addicts, their families and local police and prosecutors,” Simonson said.
Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, said she is glad the state would hold people who sell the drugs accountable.
“People who sells these drugs ... know they are selling very dangerous drugs,” Lohmer said.