Letter from Sen. Harsdorf: Protecting our kids from illegal drugs
As families and our communities continue to struggle with the impact and effects of substance abuse, it is important for state legislators to be responsive to the needs of local officials who are on the front lines of combating illegal drugs and drug abuse. School officials and law enforcement have expressed their concerns regarding the increased availability and growing use of dangerous synthetic drugs and the associated problems that result. Meanwhile, in our area and across the state, the availability of cheap and highly addictive heroin is resulting in increased crime and costs to taxpayers. The human toll on our youth and the families and friends seeking to help loved ones break free of addiction can often be even greater than the costs to society.
Last session, the State Legislature passed legislation that banned the sale of synthetic drugs, which are often times much more potent than the drugs they seek to mimic. These synthetic drugs are often referred to by their street names such as K2, bath salts, plant food, and spice. The legislation was drafted with the intent to insure that as manufacturers modified the chemical compounds of the illegal synthetic drugs, they would still be deemed illegal in our statutes. Unfortunately, individuals have found ways to alter the chemical structure of banned synthetic drugs to exploit loopholes in state law. Additionally, the synthetic drug law includes a bureaucratic hurdle for prosecutors that has proven both challenging and costly for district attorneys. I was pleased this week to testify in support of legislation I have introduced that seeks to update Wisconsin’s prohibition on synthetic marijuana and stimulants. Senate Bill 325 (SB 325) which has strong bipartisan support, would update state law by redefining the chemical structure of synthetic drugs in an effort to keep pace with manufacturers and to help district attorneys as they prosecute offenders.
In addition to SB 325, a package of bills was announced last week that seek to address increasing heroin use, which is impacting individuals, families and communities in our area and across the state. Four bills were included in this package to address the dangers of heroin use, including the enactment of a “Good Samaritan” law and allowing all EMTs to carry and administer medications that combat the effects of heroin overdoses.
The other two pieces of legislation seek to keep powerful prescription drugs from getting into the hands of those that may abuse them. These bills seek to facilitate and encourage community drug disposal programs for unwanted prescription drugs and to require individuals picking up narcotic or opiate prescription medication to show identification. These prescriptions may continue to be picked up by family members or caregivers on behalf of others at a pharmacy, but records of dispensed drugs and those picking them up would be maintained.
These proposals to address heroin abuse were put together by State Representative John Nygren, who has first-hand knowledge of the challenges of heroin abuse in his own family. Given the compelling stories I have heard from citizens of our own communities in western Wisconsin, I am pleased to be introducing these bills in the State Senate and will be working with Representative Nygren for their passage.