New Law Bans the Sale of Synthetic Drugs in Minnesota

On the heels of the methamphetamine epidemic, law enforcement agencies across Minnesota are now dealing with a serious problem involving synthetic drugs. These substances, often known as "bath salts" are powerful, mind-altering drugs that mimic the sensations produced by other drugs such as PCP, cocaine and speed.

They are sold in innocuous, yet misleading packing under names like "Cloud Nine" and "Purple Wave" at gas stations, convenience stores and other independent retailers. These substances are comprised of a constantly changing mix of chemicals, including mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methylone.

When bath salts are ingested, they increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. They also work to keep both chemicals in the brain so a user gets a prolonged high. According to an ABCNews.com report, some concoctions can be up to 13 times more powerful than cocaine. They have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country, with some users having incoherent ramblings while naked in public. According to several news reports, at least two deaths in Minnesota have been linked to synthetic drugs.

Even more dangerous, these drugs continue to be sold even though some of the chemicals used in them have been banned under federal law. In October 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a temporary ban of the primary chemicals used in synthetic drugs. The ban became permanent in July. However, drug experts and health professionals report that drug makers are adept in changing their formulas so that they create new formulas that are not covered by existing laws. As one substance is banned, drug makers use other "legal" chemicals to create a similar product. The current federal ban applies to 28 synthetic drugs that contain MDPV, methylone or mephedrone, but drug experts believe that over 100 different chemicals are used to create new drugs.

Drug makers also work around current laws by printing the phrase "not for human consumption" on packages. This is largely because federal law only prohibits the sale of substances that mimic illegal drugs if they can be shown that they are intended for human use. The "human consumption" phrase ostensibly protects of drug manufacturers, but the DEA has vowed to bring drug makers to justice regardless of the packing used to hide illegal drugs.

The Minnesota Legislature recently enacted a law that makes it a felony to sell synthetic drugs. Those convicted under the new law (which took effect August 1st) could face a five-year prison term. The new law also provides the state Pharmacy Board with greater rulemaking authority, so that it may keep up with the fast-changing formulas that manufacturers use to evade existing laws.

Since the synthetic drug problem has spread so quickly, law enforcement agencies are taking it very seriously. If you have been charged with a crime (or are under investigation) under the new law, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.