Minnesota lawmakers are considering making it a felony to sell certain synthetic drugs meant to mimic controlled substances already deemed illegal.
The proposal awaiting action at the Legislature would broaden an existing synthetic drug law to include analogs, which are compounds similar to the ones already banned by state and federal law. Supporters hope it will reduce or eliminate sales of the substances.
The proposed law also would make selling analogs a felony carrying an up to five-year prison term. Now, the crime is considered a gross misdemeanor.
"This passed in the legislatures in Kansas and Missouri," said one sponsor, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth. "And after the law went into effect, it pretty much wiped synthetic drug sales off the map."
The Duluth News Tribune, which reported on the bill Wednesday, said the challenge for lawmakers is to not make the law so broad it will be struck down by a court. Previous laws have attracted lawsuits.
Existing laws against selling analogs in Minnesota have essentially been ignored in some places. That includes the Last Place on Earth head shop in Duluth, where owner Jim Carlson has argued the law is too vague and the compounds he sells can't be identified as analogs.
Carlson said he would expect to fight such a law if it was enacted.
"The law states that anything that stimulates the brain is illegal in Minnesota," Carlson said. "I just can't believe that."
Synthetic drugs have been connected to deaths. Government and law enforcement officials across the country have moved to crack down on their sales.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)