Daily News staff

Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar that would ban chemicals found in a number of synthetic drugs, including plant food and bath salts, is close to final approval.

The legislation has passed both the House and Senate and awaits a signature from President Barack Obama. It also covers chemicals found in 2C-E, K2, spice, and other recreational drugs whose use surged in the state and elsewhere last year.

“In Minnesota and across the country, we are seeing more and more tragedies where synthetic drugs are taking lives and tearing apart families,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “And if we don’t take action, they are going to become more prevalent and put more people at risk.”

Klobuchar, a former Hennepin County prosecutor, has been a leader in the federal effort to ban the drugs. She held a forum on synthetic drugs last fall in the Twin Cities that included the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the following week the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced an emergency ban on several synthetic stimulants commonly found in plant food and bath salts.

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, which has jurisdiction over issues relating to drug control policy.

Synthetic drug use exploded in southeast Minnesota and parts of other states last year, and spread to the Twin Cities and elsewhere. A December 2011 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that one in nine high-school seniors used synthetic marijuana in the past year. The drugs, legal at the time, led to a number of incidents in Winona and a sharp increase in emergency room visits and detox cases.

Lawmakers including Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, responded at the state level by banning synthetic drugs beginning in July 2011, and that combined with the federal emergency ban and increased public awareness about the drugs has appeared to curb usage in the area.