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Legislation to strengthen ban on synthetic marijuana signed into law

Superior Telegram

Northern lawmakers Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Reps. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, and Nick Milroy, D-South Range, praised a bipartisan bill signed into law last week that will give law enforcement better tools to fight the plague of synthetic marijuana that is spreading throughout our state.

“In a time where politics in Wisconsin is more divided than ever, lawmakers from each party and from every corner of the state came together to address this issue because we all recognized the problems caused by these drugs and the trouble law enforcement was having prosecuting these criminals,” Jauch said. “This bill is a good example of how our system can still create good policy when everyone is willing to work together.”

The lawmakers have been actively working with local law enforcement and government officials for a solution.

While the state had previously enacted a ban on synthetic marijuana, distributors found they could get around the law by altering the synthetic formula, making it difficult for prosecutors to try the cases. During the past two years, the lawmakers worked closely with Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and co-authors Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, and Rep. Gary Bies, R-Sister Bay, to find a way to strengthen the current ban on synthetic marijuana.

Law enforcement has been hamstrung in their efforts to crack down on the production, distribution and use of this dangerous drug. This bill closes the loopholes that exist and will make it harder for these criminals to avoid prosecution, the lawmakers said.

The law provides a more comprehensive list of illegal substances based on what crime labs are seeing. Chemical substances similar in composition to the listed substances are now illegal. This law puts an end to the loophole, in which a drug’s chemistry is altered to avoid prosecution.

The legislators said they are confident the bill will provide tools for law enforcement to prosecute sellers of illegal drugs.

This is good news for the concerned citizens of northern Wisconsin who have been working with local law enforcement, educators and public health officials to fight the spread of synthetic marijuana.

The synthetic marijuana plague is not just a regional problem but an epidemic across the country.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of calls to poison centers related to synthetic drugs soared from about 3,200 in 2010 to more than 13,000 in 2011 and over 20 deaths related to synthetic drugs were reported last year.

A survey tracking teen drug abuse reported that one in every nine high school seniors has used synthetic marijuana.