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Ignorance Not Accepted In Synthetic Drug Appeal

February 4, 2014, 5:54 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Ignorance Not Accepted In Synthetic Drug Appeal

The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the state's first synthetic drug conviction. The justices heard the appeal back in October but filed the opinion in the case late last week.

Back in March of 2012, Jason Toben was a manager at a bar in Deuel County when undercover agents came in and bought synthetic marijuana from him.  The buy happened just days after the legislature made the substances illegal.
Toben’s attorney argued to the South Dakota Supreme Court in October that the bar manager didn’t know the substances he was selling were illegal.

"You've got this poor schmuck who's serving nine years, four felonies for conduct which three days earlier was legal and the police knew it and didn't stop him," Toben's attorney Steve Miller said on October 1, 2013.

Toben admitted he got high from the substances but said the packaging said the drugs were legal.

But in its decision issued late last week, the South Dakota Supreme Court didn't agree with that argument.

"One cannot consciously avoid learning the nature of a substance to later assert ignorance of its nature," Justice John Konenkamp wrote in the opinion.

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan wasn't involved in the case, but says the decision will serve as a guide for future synthetic drug cases.

"The individual knew the nature of the product they were selling and couldn't avoid criminal accountability by playing dumb or saying, 'The packaging or the distributor told me otherwise,'" McGowan said.

That's why the decision on the first synthetic drug case will likely be important in future cases.

Miller had no comment on the case when KELOLAND News spoke with him Tuesday.

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