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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Permian Basin Law Enforcement And Medical Community Getting The Word Out On The Dangers Associated With Designer Drugs

Federal, state and local law enforcement and medical authorities in the Permian Basin, led by United States Attorney Robert Pitman, Midland County District Attorney Teresa Clingman and Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland are getting the word out about the dangers associated with synthetic cannabinoids, also known as “synthetic marijuana” and synthetic cathinones, sometimes called “bath salts.”    

These synthetic drugs, often referred to as designer drugs, are novel psychoactive substances clandestinely produced to mimic the effects of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. There is no industrial or medical use for these substances. Clandestine chemists duplicate the technical sophistication used by the legitimate drug research community to manufacture new substances which are increasingly popular among recreational drug users.  The manufacturers and sellers of synthetic drugs often attempt to mislead users about the legality of the drugs and market the drugs to young people. 

Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, “Spice,” “K2,” or “Kush,” comprise a large family of chemically unrelated structures functionally similar to THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in organic marijuana.  When ingested, synthetic cannabinoids may produce less, equivalent or more psychoactive activity than THC, but often with pronounced and dangerous side-effects.  Synthetic cannabinoid products consist of plant matter that is sprayed with a mixture of acetone and synthetic cannabinoid chemical compounds.  These chemicals are unregulated, often produced in China, and imported to the United States where they are then applied to plant matter to render them ingestible.  Generally, the product is packaged in foil baggies which falsely state that the product is “herbal incense” and “not for human consumption” in an attempt to avoid prosecution.   The product may be sold in brick and mortar “smoke shops,” convenience stores, adult book stores, as well as, over the Internet.  Synthetic cannabinoid products are marketed under many different names, including “Scooby Snax,” “Hysteria,” “Mad Monkey,” “Sexy Monkey,” and “Devil Eye.”    

Texas poison centers report that between January 2012 and April 2014, there were 2,179 exposures to synthetic cannabinoids. The Texas Poison Center Network warns that the alarming health effects from using these drugs include severe agitation and anxiety; racing heartbeats and high blood pressure; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasm, seizure, and tremors; intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes and suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions.

“Let me be clear about this.  This is not marijuana.  These are chemical substances that are, to the user, completely unknown and that pose potentially serious health risks.  There have been reports in our own community of people, especially young people, who have had potentially serious health effects from their use,” stated U.S. Attorney Pitman.  He added, “To the owners and operators of convenience stores and smoke shops who sell illegal designer drugs, we are here to tell you that this is just the beginning of our effort to enforce the law with respect to the sale of these potentially dangerous substances.  To people in the community who think that designer drugs are a safe and legal option, we hope that this will provoke an understanding not just that they are illegal, but that you are playing a game of Russian roulette when you put these unregulated and unknown chemicals into your body.”

Last week, Jared William Roach, a 29-year-old former Odessa retailer, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a synthetic cannabinoid with intent to distribute.  By pleading guilty, Roach admitted to possessing “Hysteria Black” in his store, Smoke Alley, in May of last year.  The contents of “Hysteria Black” included both a controlled substance as well as a controlled substance analog.  Roach faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Kelly Jay Duarte, the 22-year-old former proprietor of Urban City, a retail business in Odessa, faces up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last month to one count of possession of a synthetic cannabinoid with intent to distribute.  By pleading guilty, Duarte admitted that in May 2013, synthetic cannabinoids packaged under the names of “Diablo,” “KMA,” “Mad Hatter,” and “Hypnotic Haze” were knowingly sold to customers at his business in violation of federal law. Duarte is scheduled to be sentenced on August 14, 2014, before United States District Judge Robert A. Junell in Midland.

Synthetic cathinones, which are structurally and pharmacologically similar to amphetamine, MDMA, and other related substances, are central nervous system stimulants and are sold in retail stores, on the internet, and in head shops as “bath salts,” “plant food,” or “jewelry cleaner.” Synthetic cathinone users report symptoms of increased heart rate, agitation, hypertension and hallucinations.  Like the cannabinoids, the ingredients are not disclosed, the production is unregulated and there are significant batch to batch variances.

The United States Attorney’s Office prosecuted and convicted Jimmy Wright, the former owner of B & L adult bookstore in Odessa, of the federal felony criminal offense of possession with intent to distribute the synthetic cathinone, MDVP.  Wright was sentenced to a 20-month term of imprisonment.  He recently died in prison.  

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Updated December 15, 2014