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OUR OPINION: Constant vigilance needed to beat synthetic drugs

The intense interest some people have with illegal drugs is simply beyond our comprehension.

How does a youngster begin using dangerous drugs? Possibly, it happens through the use of gateway drugs, and that’s why we probably will never be in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Colorado and Washington can have that industry all to themselves.

We’re similarly disgusted and dismayed by synthetic drugs, which escaped real scrutiny until law enforcement and parents began to realize something just isn’t right with “bath salts” that are purchased in shops or arrive in the mail hidden behind names such as “Crazy Train.”

Friday, a new law in Minnesota took effect that will make it easier to fight synthetic drugs in that state, giving the Pharmacy Board the power to order stores to stop selling the substances. Also, the new law declares that sellers who claim such a drug is legal can be forced to pay restitution from the sale, as well as expenses related to any care a user needs after taking the drugs.

We know North Dakota and South Dakota have taken measures in recent years, too, and that’s good news. These drugs burst onto the scene, aided by the Internet and their mysterious names, and caused all sorts of issues before law-enforcement agencies and lawmakers could react.

In Grand Forks, two teens died in 2012 after ingesting synthetic drugs. The sad case led to the breakup of a synthetic drug ring and the arrest of 15 people who were involved. We like to think that kind of case, although terribly tragic, will at least serve as a warning to dealers and users.

In Minnesota, Cody Wilberg of the state Pharmacy Board told Forum News Service that he knows work still remains. The law will likely help deter Minnesota retail sales of synthetic drugs, but policing the Internet will be a more difficult task, he said.

We’re tired of hearing about synthetic drug users — who generally are just kids — doing great harm to themselves or others after ingesting mysteriously named products such as “Bizarro” and “Vanilla Sky.”

The drugs can be snorted and smoked, or even injected into the body. They’re relatively cheap at $25 to $50. Often, kids buy and use these drugs not only because of the price, but also because the way drugs are labeled they offer no hint at their sometimes dark effects, including severe and intense hallucinations, seizures and death.

Minnesota and states around the region are on the right track, but work remains. It will take stiff laws and constant vigilance to wipe out this scourge.