Newspaper article

Head-Shop Convictions Bolster State Efforts to Tackle Synthetic Drugs

Newspaper article

Head-Shop Convictions Bolster State Efforts to Tackle Synthetic Drugs

Article excerpt

The activities of Duluth head shop owner Jim Carlson have inspired the ongoing legislative hearings that will likely result in additional measures to tackle synthetic drugs in Minnesota.

Monday's jury verdict against Carlson, owner of the Last Place on Earth shop, likely bolstered the spirits of authorities, who have been watching the federal case to see what it could mean for going after other businesses that sell the substances.

DFL Rep. Erik Simonson, who represents Duluth, chairs a special committee that is examining how to stop the spread of synthetic drugs.

At its Wednesday session, the legislative committee plans to examine the effects of synthetic drugs in the metro area.

"It's not just a Duluth problem," said DFL Rep. Dan Schoen, a Cottage Grove police officer whose first foray into politics was combating so-called "synthetic marijuana." He calls the proliferation of new "designer" drugs "a special demon."

Simonson has a handful of ideas he wants to put into law. Lawmakers, he says, should authorize an education campaign against synthetics. He also wants to craft a "look-alike law," similar to one being challenged in Indiana. Such legislation would regulate the analogs, or variations, of currently controlled chemicals.

Schoen, who is also a member of the legislative committee, said lawmakers should examine the dramatic "Faces of Meth" campaign to see what resonated with the public there. He also pushed for giving the state Board of Pharmacy expanded authority.

State lawmakers are hopeful about new regulations but see a long and difficult path in improving Minnesota's synthetic drug laws.

The drugs, which are similar to amphetamines and other controlled substances, are often known as "bath salts" or go by even more exotic names. They resulted in nearly 23,000 emergency room visits nationwide in 2011, according to a September report from the federal government.

Schoen and other lawmakers acknowledge that politicians have been late in trying to curb their use.

So far, lawmakers have added a few compounds a year to a list of controlled chemicals. In response, the drug manufacturers simply dream up slight variations in formulas, offering new, unregulated drugs to retailers. …

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