ST. CHARLES — About $100,000 in synthetic drugs known as bath salts were seized in a Monday morning raid at a St. Charles residence, authorities said.
Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said his officers and members of the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Drug Task Force executed a search warrant about 8 a.m. in the 1400 block of Oakview Drive in St. Charles.
Inside, they found the drugs and arrested a 35-year-old man who was living there. He was taken to the Winona County Jail, where he is being held pending charges, Brand said.
Officers seized firearms, cash and four vehicles, he said.
The seizure was the largest of bath salts, also known as plant food, that he knows of in the county, Brand said.
A second related search warrant was done in Dover about the same time, said Lt. Tom Claymon of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office. Several more firearms and more drugs were found at the Dover address, he said.
In total, about two and a half pounds of the drugs were recovered, officials said. The case remains under investigation.
The Post-Bulletin typically doesn't identify suspects until they've been charged.
Statewide, there's been an explosion in the amount of synthetic drugs being seized by law enforcement agencies, said Statewide Gang and Drug Coordinator Brian Marquart, who testified earlier this month in St. Paul before the Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs. In 2012, law enforcement agencies seized and purchased a total of 5,020 grams of synthetic drugs. In the first quarter of 2013, 52,000 grams had been purchased or seized, and in the second quarter, that number is projected to climb to 500,000 grams.
Winona County has been one area that has seen significant synthetic drug crime in the past three years.
Earlier this month before the state Select Committee on Controlled Substances, Winona County Assistant Attorney Christina Davenport told members of the task force, "We believe that designer synthetic substances are even more harmful to our communities than methamphetamine."
Soon after the drugs surfaced in Winona County in 2010, reports starting coming in of people believing they were being chased by werewolves or attacked by demons, Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman told the committee. In some cases, children were being bitten by their parents or having knives put up to their throats. While legislative efforts to ban synthetic drugs helped get it off local store shelves, the problem remains.
"What's happening is that now that it's illegal, people are much more secretive about their use," Davenport said. "That danger is still there. It's just not being flaunted in the way it was before."
In order to combat these drugs, the committee's chairman has proposed a bill modeled after an Indiana law dubbed the "lookalike bill." Instead of focusing on particular chemicals, the bill states that if a reasonable person concludes an individual is selling a particular product in order to get someone high, it's illegal. That law passed in May and is being challenged in the courts.
July 30, 2013
Kay Fate and John Weiss | Post-Bulletin
Image Source: WCCO 4 News
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