Hundreds Pack Duluth Hearing on Synthetic Drug Use

Posted at: 06/07/2013 6:25 PM | Updated at: 06/07/2013 10:40 PM
By: Alan Hoglund
ahoglund@wdio.com

Hundreds of people filled a conference room, overflow room and the hallway of a Duluth hotel Friday afternoon for a hearing on curbing the use of synthetic drugs.

Packed into the room at the Sheraton Hotel was Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, health professionals and state lawmakers on a new committee charged with recommending polices to combat the sale of the substances.

There is no shortage of strong views on the subject. Lynn Habhegger, a woman whose son was committed to a mental health facility after using the drugs, called the people who make them "terrorists with no moral compass."

"My family's future was forever altered when my 24-year-old son purchased and ingested a synthetic drug commonly known as bath salts," Habhegger said.

Speaking in front of the crowd, Habhegger cried as she told her story. "He was found by police wandering the halls of a local motel in a psychotic state."

Habhegger said that was in 2011. She said her son was raced to the hospital after suffering a heart attack.

Hospital staff saved his life, but this week Habhegger said he was going to be committed to a mental health facility. "The family made an excruciating decision to have him committed to once again save his life."

Habhegger said her son bought the bath salts at a Duluth store, but didn't say which store. The substance has been sold at the downtown's Last Place on Earth, owned by Jim Carlson. He was at the hearing and Eyewitness News asked him to respond to stories like the one Habhegger told.

Carlson said "there is all kinds of stuff out there. People drink mouthwash, they sniff paint and glue so there is all kinds of things going on in this country but they don't ban everything."

Ahead of hearing any testimony, Swanson suggested some solutions. She said Duluth could enact a ban on all synthetic drugs, or the legislature could add to the list of substances that are illegal to sell.

Swanson also praised a plan going through the city council that would require businesses selling synthetic drugs to be licensed. She said if businesses have licenses, the government can take them away if need be.

Swanson said "I'm going to be straight with you. None of these solutions are going to be perfect solutions but i hope that together and collectively they can provide more tools in dealing with and combating this problem as well."

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