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DULUTH – As a tougher state law against synthetic drugs goes into effect this month, Minnesotans also have a new website to get factual information about the dangers and risks posed by the deadly substances.
Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson today announced the launch of a new website, KnowTheDangers.com, designed to provide resources and information for parents, youth, educators, health care professionals and others who may encounter synthetic drugs. Visitors to KnowTheDangers.com can learn what types of substances, packaging and paraphernalia to look for, as well as what effects these drugs may have and how to reach out for help. The website is optimized for mobile and tablet devices.
“We want people to know that synthetic drugs, which until recently could be purchased in some stores, are in fact very dangerous and illegal. KnowTheDangers.com will give parents and others with young people in their lives the information they need to recognize synthetic drugs and start conversations about the substances before they cause more harm in Minnesota communities,” Jesson said.
Synthetic drugs include any substance meant to mimic the effects of illegal chemicals and are typically found as either synthetic cannabinoids, sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana, or synthetic cathinones, more commonly known as bath salts. Synthetic drugs are most popular among teens and young adults and second only to marijuana in drugs commonly used by youth, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Rep. Erik Simonson and Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth sponsored legislation this session granting the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy greater authority to identify and ban the sale of synthetic drugs after seeing the negative impacts from sale of the drugs in their community. Gov. Mark Dayton praised recent efforts.
“Synthetic drugs have led to criminal activity and pose a serious risk to Minnesotans,” said Gov. Dayton. “I thank Representative Simonson and Senator Reinert for leading the charge on this new law.”
The legislation, effective Aug. 1, 2014, ensures that synthetic drug manufacturers can no longer stay ahead of prosecution and misrepresent the drugs as a “legal high” simply by altering chemical compounds. Sale of these synthetic drugs already is expressly prohibited but the new legislation empowers the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy to issue cease and desist orders to businesses that sell synthetic drugs. The law also expands the definition of “drug” to any substance not approved for human consumption that, when ingested, induces an effect similar to Schedule I or II controlled substances such as heroin, LSD, marijuana and others. In addition, the legislation appropriates funding to the Department of Human Services to increase public awareness efforts regarding the dangers of synthetic drugs.
“Thanks to a lot of hard work from local officials and federal agents, Duluth’s problem with synthetic drugs has essentially gone away,” said Simonson, who joined Jesson this morning in Duluth. “This state law helps prevent it from happening again in our city or anywhere else “No parent, child, friend or neighbor should have to experience the damaging consequences of synthetic drug use.”
Cody Wiberg, executive director of Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, said his agency will use the new law in an effort to get retail establishments in the state to stop selling synthetic drugs.
“It is now very clear in Minnesota that synthetic drugs are illegal to sell in stores. This law gives us important tools to help keep these dangerous products off store shelves and out of the hands of young people across the state,” said Wiberg, who participated in today’s news conference at the Duluth Public Safety Building.
Also participating in the news conference were Dr. Elisabeth Bilden, medical toxicologist and emergency physician at Essentia Health, who talked about the medical risks of using synthetic drugs, and Duluth Police Lt. Jeff Kazel, who shared a law enforcement perspective about the community’s role in preventing synthetic drug use.
KnowTheDangers.com was created by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in partnership with state agencies participating in the Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy. These include the departments of Public Safety, Health, Education, Labor and Industry and Corrections as well as the judicial branch and the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. The strategy was launched in 2012 with the goal of addressing the effects of substance abuse on the state in the most comprehensive way.