Pubdate: Tue, 31 Jul 2012
Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2012 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Author: Christina Killion Valdez


Just more than a year ago synthetic marijuana was sold over the 
counter in Rochester at adult bookstores and some gas stations. 
Outright sales of the drug, however, largely fell off a year ago when 
selling it became a misdemeanor, said Jim Martinson, chief deputy 
county attorney for Olmsted County.

So, on Wednesday, when a new state law goes into effect making it a 
felony to sell the designer drugs meant to mimic marijuana and other 
controlled substances, there shouldn't be a spike in court cases here, he said.

"I checked with the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force 
and the city of Rochester and they have not see a lot of synthetic 
cannabinoids or marijuana here," Martinson said. "The law was 
explained by law enforcement who went around to stores last year and 
as far as we know many places have largely ceased selling it. 
Although there is a rumor that there are still some behind the counter sales."

That doesn't mean the state's stepped up efforts to combat the sale 
of the drug comes too late though.

Winona, Houston County and Red Wing have seen a large number of sales 
of synthetic cannabinoids and marijuana sales, Martinson said.

Plus, at least two deaths in the state are linked the synthetic drugs 
that are sometimes labeled as "bath salts" or incense.

"We see some people possessing it, but not selling it," he said.

Selling the synthetic drugs could carry a five-year prison term under 
the new law. Current law limits prosecutors from charging more than a 
gross misdemeanor.

By making it a felony to sell the drug, the state is really cracking 
down on the establishments, Martinson said.

The law also gives the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy power to speed 
through new rules to keep up with the fast-changing formulas that the 
drug peddlers often use to evade existing laws.

Board executive director Cody Wiberg said the rule-making authority 
will allow officials to classify addictive drugs with no legitimate 
medical purpose as illegal within a few months.
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