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Published July 01, 2011, 07:03 PM

Synthetic Pot No Longer On MN Shelves

Minnesota bans substances with similar makeup to explicitly outlawed drugs
Minnesota’s new designer drug ban, including the widely available “herbal incense” often dubbed synthetic pot, went into effect today despite a lawsuit challenging it.

By: Dave Roepke, Forum Communications

MOORHEAD – Minnesota’s new designer drug ban, including the widely available “herbal incense” often dubbed synthetic pot, went into effect today despite a lawsuit challenging it.

Three retailers who sell the products sued Monday in Hennepin County District Court to halt enforcement of the prohibitions. The group included the owner of Discontent in Moorhead.

The store owners claim the law is too broad in its criminalization of “analog” substances, which are chemicals with similar chemical structure or producing the effects of explicitly outlawed drugs.

In his ruling on Thursday, Judge William Howard in part denied the attempt to block the new ban on the grounds there are no cases prosecuted yet, which he said is needed to consider if particular substances are covered by the ban.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, one of the co-authors of the bill signed in May, said the provisions barring analogs as well as those giving the state pharmacy board the power to ban substances in an emergency fashion are essential to respond quickly to new substances.

Marc Kurzman, a Minneapolis lawyer representing the merchants, said they’ll continue to seek an injunction to block the law while contesting its legality.

In the interim, Kurzman said the stores his clients own will pull the products from the shelves and not re-stock until the matter is settled in court. Discontent planned to have its synthetics out of state by 7 p.m. on Thursday, he said.

Moorhead police say they plan to visit stores to make sure they’re not selling any products newly outlawed.

Kurzman said he hopes the challenge to the law can be handled within a matter of weeks, and if it isn’t, stores could be forced to close.

In an affidavit filed in the lawsuit, Discontent owner Tom Tepley said his Moorhead store, as well ones in East Grand Forks and Waite Park, would lose about 60 percent of their business if they couldn’t sell synthetic cannabinoids not specifically mentioned in the new prohibitions. It would be a loss of about $1 million in profits, he said.

Howard recognized in his ruling that the retailers may be economically stung by the ban, but he ruled they did not make a strong enough legal argument to warrant a preemptive delay.

Roepke is a reporter at the Forum in Fargo

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