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Kriesel 'fake pot' ban passes House

Rep. John Kriesel of Cottage Grove tells fellow Minnesota House members on Thursday that synthetic marijuana is dangerous and should be banned. Other representatives agreed and his first bill passed 124-4. Photo by Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau

Rep. John Kriesel has been in the Minnesota Legislature nearly two months, but said he finally feels like a lawmaker.

The freshman legislator saw his first bill pass off the Minnesota House floor Thursday. The measure would prohibit the sale or possession of synthetic marijuana, a drug known as "fake pot" that can be purchased in convenience stores but worries law enforcement because of its potency and popularity with youth.

Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, earlier this session moved the bill through House committees, where Cottage Grove police officers testified in support of the proposal. It went to the floor Thursday, where representatives voted 124-4.

"The whole process was fun, exciting," Kriesel said of passing his first bill, which saw little opposition. "You go from sitting at home saying, 'Hey, I think this should be a law,' and now you're actually doing it."

"Now I feel like a state representative," he added.

Kriesel's bill would make it a gross misdemeanor to sell synthetic marijuana and a misdemeanor to possess the drug.

The measure is not law - not yet, anyway. A similar bill by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, awaits action in the Senate. If Sieben's bill passes, the two versions likely will need to be reconciled before going to Gov. Mark Dayton.

Sieben applauded the passage of Kriesel's bill and said hopefully that will help to get her bill heard in the Senate, which like the House is controlled by Republicans.

"Synthetic marijuana represents a very serious public safety issue in our communities, one that is putting the lives of our teenagers at risk," she said.

Kriesel said he will turn his attention now to helping to get Senate action on the proposal.

"We need to get this stuff off the streets ASAP," he said.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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