The bill would make prosecuting drug sales easier.
The Minnesota Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill that strengthens penalties for selling or giving away synthetic marijuana and makes it easier to prosecute the sale of chemical "analogs" of the drug.
The legislation now returns to the House, which last week passed a nearly identical bill and will consider whether to adopt a small amendment to make its bill match the Senate's. Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, a bill sponsor, said the legislation could go to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature by the end of the week and take effect Aug. 1.
"This is the first bill I've had in four years in which people are stopping me on the street and asking when it will go into effect," said Reinert. He said police, emergency room doctors and others are especially concerned in "college towns" such as Duluth and Moorhead, where head shops market packets of synthetic marijuana to young adults.
Synthetic marijuana, often sold as "herbal incense" or "spice," consists of dried plant material sprayed with chemicals synthesized to target the same brain receptors affected by THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Most of the synthetic substitutes have not been tested on humans and can produce unexpectedly strong reactions.
Last spring a 22-year-old Maple Grove man, in what police called an "altered state of mind" from smoking synthetic pot, died of a self-inflicted gunshot. The death was ruled an accident.
Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, said a provision of the pending legislation that would make selling fake pot a felony will help prosecutors deal with shops that were not deterred last year after the state made selling it a gross misdemeanor.
"Some stores continued to sell certain products that tried to get around the law," said Wiberg, who said the new law recognizes that "these are potentially very dangerous substances that should not be equated with marijuana."
Larry Oakes 612-269-0504