By: Dave Olson


MOORHEAD – Although banned in states like North Dakota and Minnesota, synthetic marijuana and similar substances are increasingly falling into the hands of young people, sometimes with deadly consequences, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Sunday at a panel discussion here.

She said the danger reached her radar after a 19-year-old in Blaine died after overdosing on a synthetic hallucinogen.

Klobuchar is the sponsor of a bill that would ban the sale of such substances across the country.

Stall tactics

Other members of Congress have introduced similar bills focusing on synthetic bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

“One out of nine high school seniors has admitted to using synthetic marijuana in the last year, so those are the number we are talking about,” Klobuchar said, adding that the proposed federal legislation is being stalled by a single Kentucky lawmaker who is filibustering the bills.

Federal laws are necessary, Klobuchar said, because state statutes like Minnesota’s are limited in what they can control.

“We have the issue that many of these drugs are sold over the Internet, so they cross state lines and then we have the other issues that we have some states that haven’t dealt with this at all,” Klobuchar said.

False impression

Because until recently synthetic drugs could be sold at retail outlets, some people are under the dangerous and naive impression that they are safe, Moorhead Police Chief Dave Ebinger said.

The truth is such substances “have ruined families and ruined health in our community,” Ebinger said.

Doug Seiler, an official with the Minnesota Department of Health, agreed.

Seiler said synthetic drugs can lead to psychosis that may last for weeks or cause permanent mental health issues.

Sarah Chatelain-Gress, who attended Sunday’s event, attributed her husband’s death last summer in an automobile crash to synthetic drugs and the misguided belief even addicts have that such substances are benign.

“The effects of it are nothing like marijuana. It’s like PCP,” she said, referring to a notoriously dangerous hallucinogenic drug.

School grounds

Ebinger said kids as young as 12 are getting their hands on synthetic drugs.

“Just this week we had another instance where synthetic marijuana turned up in one of our schools; a middle school student ended up holding this substance,” he said.

“These are items we need to control the sale of,” Ebinger added.

“We have kids who think because these items are being sold in a retail establishment, or are on the Internet, that they’re safe. And that simply is not the case,” he said.