Tough drug enforcement has offered so-so results

Minnesota lawmakers are working on a bill that targets the sale of synthetic drugs in the state. These drugs are seen as a threat to public health and enforcement of the laws, with manufacturers modifying recipes just slightly every time a particular drug is banned.

Authorities suspect that the recent deaths of a Mankato man and woman may have stemmed from their use of synthetic drugs. The city of Duluth, meanwhile, fought a long battle with a man who sold these products.?He has now been convicted of 51 federal drug charges.

A huge obstacle for law enforcement and public health officials is the fact that these drugs can be purchased online.

We understand that there are harmful drugs in the world, and this is why governments try to keep these products out of the hands of citizens. There is some overriding sense of paternalism that lawmakers feel when they pass anti-drug laws.

Another truth, however, is that these laws have been long-running failures. Drug epidemics surge every so many years, as one product is targeted by police and another one moves in. First it’s heroin, then cocaine, then meth, then back to heroin, with prescription painkillers thrown in. Pot remains ever popular. All the public policy initiatives are focused on control, which just seems like wishful thinking over time.

We would suggest that it’s time for new approaches. There are advocates for legalization, while others suggest spending money on treatment. Given the Internet, it’s easy to see the drug trade proliferating beyond anyone’s control anyway. The old ways haven’t worked. We can’t imagine them succeeding better into the future.