Iron Range Synthetic Marijuana Use on Upswing

By KBJR News 1

October 19, 2012 Updated Oct 19, 2012 at 6:36 PM CDT

Virginia, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - You may be familiar with the problems caused by synthetic marijuana use in Duluth, but it's a problem on the Iron Range too. Law enforcement officials say synthetic drugs have been around on the Range for several years, but use has increased.

Once Duluth sees a problem we also see a problem, but not to the degree that they do," said Eveleth Police Chief Tim Koivunen,"One of those examples is the synthetic marijuana."

Detective Nicole Mattson with the Virginia Police Department says the department has been seeing more calls for overdoses of the synthetic drugs, more calls to poison control and more cases of possession.

"We're having more problems with our contacts or people who are involved in using or possessing," said Detective Mattson, "We've come across more on the possession half, where they are using or have on their person at the time or admit to us that they are using synthetic marijuana."

Part of the lure of the drugs is that they're readily available and often legal. We found legal synthetic marijuana at Manseau's Range of Music in Virginia.

Workers at the store declined to go on camera, but told us that the substances they sell are labeled as not being made for human consumption. They said that the decision to smoke the substance is the choice of the consumer.

But it's not just brick and mortar stores that are a concern to law enforcement, the online market has made already easy to get drugs even easier.

"The sites [that sell synthetic marijuana] are monitored and shut down as they're introduced on the internet," said Detective Mattson.

Chief Koivunen says that the use of synthetic drugs has created problems in the community.

"Individuals that we're dealing with [that use synthetic drugs] are out of control," he said, "So with that, it is becoming a big problem for us and all the surrounding communities."

While law enforcement on the Iron Range say they've seen an upswing in synthetic drug use, they say they haven't seen some of the issues Duluth has had with the drugs, such as loitering around places that sell them.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.