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Recent indictments show strength of state's synthetic drug law

In the mid to late 2000s, so-called synthetic drugs became popular in the United States. Marketed and legally sold at head shops under names like spice and bath salts, the drugs were manufactured to provide users with a high similar to illegal drugs like marijuana, LSD and methamphetamines.

As the popularity and use of these drugs increased, so too did reports of recreational users who suffered psychotic episodes, injury and even death. In response, federal and state law enforcement officials across the country began taking steps to outlaw the chemical substances that were readily used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs.

However, cracking down on the synthetic drug industry proved to be challenging as individuals who manufactured the drugs frequently changed recipes to avoid using those ingredients and compounds that were outlawed. Despite these technical issues, Minnesota took action to ban the sale of synthetic drugs. However, some shop owners continued to sell the banned substances.

In August of last year, a new law went into effect that provided the state's Board of Pharmacy with the power to "issue cease and desist orders to businesses that sell synthetic drugs." The new law also included bans on any substances that provide "an effect similar to Schedule I or II controlled substances."

Just this week, five Minnesota men were arrested and indicted on drug charges stemming from their involvement in what law enforcement officials contend was a synthetic drug ring. The men, who range in age from 25 to 33, face numerous criminal charges related to the manufacture and selling of synthetic cannibinoids at smoke shops, which are owned by one of the men.

When it comes to the manufacturing and selling of synthetic drugs, there has been a major shift in attitudes and laws within the last five years. As a result, some individuals may find themselves facing criminal charges for activities that were previously legal.

Source: Office of Governor Mark Dayton & Lt. Governor Tina Smith, "Tougher Law, New Resources Add to Fight Against Synthetic Drugs," Aug. 6, 2015

Star Tribune, "5 indicted in investigation of Minnesota multimillion-dollar synthetic drug ring," March 19, 2015

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