The Drug Enforcement Agency has seized more than $36 million in cash and arrested nearly 100 people in a nationwide crackdown on synthetic designer drugs.
The drugs, with names like K2, Spice, and Bath Salts are among the newest drugs of choice in cities across the United States.
DEA agent James Burns said,
“This stuff, in the DEA’s eyes, is just as bad as methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroine,” DEA agent James Burns said.
“When you’re charging $60 for a 3 gram pack of some of this stuff, and it’s labeled glass cleaner, or plant food, or bath salts, I mean, that raises a red flag with me, and it should raise a red flag with any rational individual,” he said.
As part of “Operation Log Jam,” the DEA raided targets in 109 cities. After a raid at a San Diego business, one man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was always a bit suspicious.
“You’d come around, and there’d be a guy walking around with a lab coat and goggles out in the parking lot,” he said. “Of course it makes you think it’s something not normal.”
DEA officials said the substances can be found at smoke shops, convenience stores, and gas stations. They’re often disguised innocently, and some are even sold in wrappers with cartoon characters.
“Sold in legitimate looking packages, these insidious substances are marketed directly to teenagers and to young adults with benign and catchy titles,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said.
Experts say the drugs can cause extreme paranoia, violent episodes, and death.
In the aftermath of this crackdown, the DEA said there are five million fewer packets of these drugs on the streets. The message, they say, should be clear to dealers.
“You are nothing more than a drug trafficker, and we will bring you to justice,” Leonhart said.
The agency has temporarily banned some of the chemicals found in synthetic marijuana. This month the president signed into law a measure that bans the sale, production, and possession of many of the chemicals found in the most popular synthetic drugs.
Experts who have studied the drugs estimate that there are more than 100 different bath-salt chemicals circulating. The compounds can mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine.
Leonhart said those arrested could face a variety of state or federal criminal charges.