The state of Minnesota has recently decided to start taking steps toward banning the sale of synthetic drugs in local head shops. After eight long months of gathering testimonies from every corner of the state, committee members gathered to present their evidence during a hearing at the State Office Building in St. Paul. After an hour-long meeting, The bipartisan House Select Committee on Controlled Substance and Synthetic Drugs of Minnesota proposed multiple recommendations to the State Legislature, determined to make these suggestions into law.
On January 29, 2014, an official meeting was held by the Minnesota State drug court. Lawmakers are attempting to reduce the number of loopholes that currently allow these drugs to be sold legally. Not only are Minnesota officials going to crack down on the amount of synthetic substances that can be sold, they are also starting an educational campaign to warn young adults about the fatal risk of synthetic drug abuse. State officials want the public to know that local head shops are disguising dangerous synthetic drugs by changing their chemical composition to bypass the law.
Accentuating the final decision, a mother’s pain shed new light on this dark subject as she grievously told of her young son’s death. Lynn Habhegger, sitting before a committee of lawmakers, chokes back tears as she recounts her sons final moments: “Corey didn’t lose his life to synthetic drugs, he lost his mind to them.” What pains her most, is what he could have been. “Corey will never be able to hold a job, go to college, have a profession, serve his country, get married or have a family,” pleads Habhegger.
26-year-old Corey, fatefully ingested a synthetic drug he bought illegally from an easily accessible head shop, just down the street from where he lived. According to “Synthetic Drugs In Cross Hair Of Minn. Lawmakers”, Corey’s mother “told lawmakers her son suffered a heart attack and kidney failure, and he’s been in and out of mental hospitals ever since.” Heartbroken by a mother’s loss and deep pain, committee members have firmly decided to take steps toward banning the sale of synthetic substances.
By definition a synthetic substance (synthetic compound) is any substance that is considered “man-made” by synthesis, rather than something created by nature. It also refers to a substance/compound that is formed under the control of humans by a chemical reaction or by biosynthesis. Regularly sold in “head shops” or smoke shops, common synthetic substances include incense, bath salts, nitrous oxide (whippits), Spice, K2 and many others.
Though they seem to be safe, synthetic drugs are incredibly dangerous when ingested. The Last Place On Earth, a Duluth head shop that has been forcibly closed, is now facing 51 federal felony charges in the U.S District Court in Minneapolis. Other head shops are being investigated by local law enforcement who are searching for the illegal buying and selling of synthetic drugs.
The Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, feels deeply disturbed by synthetic drug use and hopes that the community can make a change for the better. “Never in a million years would we condone the sale of this type of poison being sold in a pharmacy and a neighborhood,” Swanson sadly stated. “Yet it is routinely sold in store-front locations in communities and neighborhoods throughout Minnesota.” More than 75 patients were treated for hazard health effects of synthetic substances at the trauma center in Duluth.
Some recommendations proposed by the committee to the Legislature include:
1. Eliminating any and all loopholes that head-shop owners have been using to sell illegal products, legally.
2. Giving power to the state Board of Pharmacy by enabling them to issue “cease-and-desist” orders to impress upon suppliers.
3. Expand the board of Pharmacy’s ability to make rules, giving them the authority to name certain compounds as banned controlled substances.
4. Compiling funds to use for prosecuting synthetic drug cases, analyzing, and testing the health hazards of synthetic drugs.
5. Funding a public education program, especially targeted to young people, warning of the drugs’ hazards
Committee Chair Erik Simonson wants “to give law enforcement and prosecutors a better opportunity to control this problem in their own communities.” The goal is to close all of the loopholes involving the sale and manufacturing of synthetic drugs. As soon as the law to limit these substances passes, Minnesota parents can rest easy knowing their children are safe from the unhealthy chemicals that will no longer linger in local head shops on the streets of Minnesota.
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