DEA NEWS: Valley-wide Synthetic Drug Takedown
July 26 (PHOENIX) – Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) along with various state and local law enforcement agencies executed 17 search warrants and seized more than more 4,000 pounds of synthetic drugs yesterday in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food. More than $3 million in assets were also seized.
As of today, more than 3,322 pounds of synthetic cannabinoids (so-called “K2”, “Spice”) and over 733 pounds of synthetic cathinones (ex. “bath salts”) and the products to produce an additional 300 pounds were seized. Over 239 pounds of suspected psilocybin mushrooms were also seized.
Seven individuals were arrested in yesterday’s operation and additional arrests are anticipated. Also seized were 13 firearms, 12 vehicles, and numerous bank accounts.
“This operation has disrupted the entire nationwide synthetic designer drug industry, from manufacturers and distributors to retailers, said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. DEA and our partners have seized thousands of pounds of these dangerous substances and millions of dollars in illegal proceeds, and we will continue to use all the tools available to us to bring to justice those who peddle these poisons and harm our society.”
Over the past several years, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe.
These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols that have been set up by employers and government agencies to protect public safety. They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have also become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Just as with the synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.
While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.
DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called bath salts like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.
In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic “Spice” and “bath salts.” In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger.
For more information about this operation and synthetic designer drugs, visit www.dea.gov.
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