Last night, Senator Roger Reinert’s bill (SF2319) related to synthetic cannabinoids, more commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana, was heard in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
Reinert’s bill accomplishes two significant changes. First, the bill reclassifies synthetic cannabinoids as a Schedule I substance. This subsequently increases penalty for the sale of synthetic marijuana with no remuneration to a gross misdemeanor. The penalty for all other types of sales increases from a gross misdemeanor to a felony. If found guilty one may be sentenced to not more than five years of imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both.
Second, the bill also updates the statutory controlled substance schedules so they match the schedules maintained by the Board of Pharmacy. The new schedules would reflect lists of known categories of drugs which are typically made to generate new psychoactive drugs. Effectively, the bill attempts to stay ahead of the production of new drugs or chemicals that are being constantly modified before hitting the streets.
Testifying in support of the bill included John Kingrey, executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, and Richard Stanek, Hennepin County sheriff. From Duluth, the testifiers were Gordon Ramsay, Police Chief of the Duluth Police Department, and Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council.
“You hear it called synthetic marijuana from time to time, but this is more akin to LSD, said Chief Ramsay. “There are enormous safety issues and health concerns for the people of Duluth.”
“There has been significant investment and reinvestment in the downtown Duluth area which is being overshadowed by the negatives associated with the sale of these drugs,” said Ms. Stokes. “We have a jewel of a business district that has seen tremendous revitalization, and these businesses deserve to operate without these interruptions.”
“Synthetic marijuana is obviously a very serious issue in Duluth,” said Senator Reinert. “Our city has seen its negative consequences in the downtown business area and in the local emergency rooms.” Senator Reinert went on to say, “this synthetic garbage is more closely related to meth than marijuana. Because synthetic marijuana is legal, people think it is safe when it’s not.”
The bill passed unanimously and now moves to a vote by the full Senate.