Troopers Seize Synthetic Marijuana Across the State


An operation across Upstate New York, led by the State Police, found synthetic marijuana being sold at various locations, from Rochester to Niagara Falls to Port Jervis.
Five of the nine commercial establishments searched by troopers and other law enforcement agencies were in the Rochester area.

Troopers searched:

Jamaica Junction – 15 Front Street, Port Jervis, NY
Dewey Avenue Smoke Shop – 1405 Dewey Avenue, Rochester, NY
Elab Smokers Boutique – 719 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY
Elab Smokers Boutique – 4373 Lake Avenue, Rochester, NY
Illusions Smoke Shop – 2854 Dewey Avenue, Greece, NY
Dazed and Confused Tobacco – 1308 Buffalo Road, Gates, NY
Alchemy Gift Shop – 6910 Buffalo Road, Niagara Falls, NY
Zonen Ltd. – 6697 Old Collamer Road, East Syracuse, NY
Hightops Sneakers & Smoking Accessory – 193 State Street, Auburn, NY
The search revealed more than 11,000 packages of synthetic cannabinoids, which are a mixture of chemicals intended to mimic the effects of marijuana. The risks associated with the drug include agitation, nausea, seizures and hallucinations.

Last August, the state department of health made it a violation to possess or sell synthetic marijuana.

Four people in all were arrested across the state.

Because of the amount of product seized at some of the searched locations, the Drug Enforcement Administration may seek federal prosecution.

Advertisements

The bad news about bath salts


For several months, Will Moffitt has been warning us about “bath salts.”

Bath salts is the innocuous name given to a group of designer drugs that resemble Epsom salts. The recipes for these drugs vary, but usually contain a synthetic benzoylethanamine or cathinone, which have effects similar to ecstasy and cocaine.

Moffitt is a former La Cañada Unified School District board member, past president of the LCF Educational Foundation and current chairman of the La Cañada Community Prevention Council.

From October 22 to 26, Moffitt and the Community Prevention Council will conduct Red Ribbon Week, an annual alcohol, tobacco, drug and violence prevention awareness campaign. The timing is perfect.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the news reports concerning 52-year-old La Cañada businessman Brian C. Mulligan. A few months ago, Mulligan filed a $50-million claim against the city of Los Angeles alleging that in May, he was imprisoned in a motel room by the Los Angeles Police Department and then brutally beaten. The photo of Mulligan’s battered face went viral.

The police report mentioned that Mulligan had been using White Lightning, a type of bath salts. Mulligan’s lawyers vehemently denied the allegation. Last week, an audio tape emerged in which Mulligan (if it was Mulligan) called the Glendale police to say that a helicopter was following him, and admitted using bath salts at least 20 times.

The tape story was reported everywhere. L.A. Times. CBS. Huffington Post. The Valley Sun.

The legal status of designer drugs constantly varies. As new synthetics are designed, state legislatures try to pass laws that criminalize their use. Extreme cases and media publicity drive the process. Until a new law is passed, the new designer drug is probably legal, or at least there’s a defense on that basis. When a state cracks down on one drug, the vendors vary the formula slightly and invent another drug.

Cat and mouse.

Last May, the use of bath salts was not illegal in California. By July, the president signed a federal law banning some forms of bath salts. Three weeks ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that criminalizes the use of synthetic drugs such as bath salts. The new crime will be a low-grade misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. The law takes effect on Jan. 1.

The L.A. Times recently reported that the danger of bath salts is not well known (“Bath salts dangers underscored,” Oct. 17). For months, the media has reported cases of unexpected side effects in otherwise normal people that result in grisly assaults, such as chewing off the face of a homeless man, strangling an 80-year-old neighbor and slashing one’s own throat.

Given the thousands of people who have used bath salts, it is obvious that not everyone has a bizarre psychotic reaction. That’s why the ad horrendum argument (“you’ll go nuts”) is ineffective. Not everyone who uses designer drugs goes crazy. It’s like Russian roulette. Sometimes, there’s a bullet in the chamber. Sometimes not. In the user’s mind, that risk is balanced against the perceived legal advantage of getting high on a drug that is not yet illegal.

Bottom line: If you get sick, see a doctor. If you get arrested, see a lawyer. And if you are a concerned parent, see Will Moffitt.

Despite the recent news coverage, the sky is not falling. La Cañada is a pretty safe community. So, why is Will Moffitt spreading the word on designer drugs?

Rudy Eugene’s Toxicology Report: Experts speculate on what caused ‘face-chewing’ attack


CBS/AP) MIAMI – Experts are still speculating about what may have caused Rudy Eugene’s face-chewing attack on Ronald Poppo in Miami last month. A toxicology report on Wednesday failed to find “bath salts” and other major street drugs in Eugene’s system.

Pictures: Fla. police identify “face-eating” naked man

The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner said in a news release that the toxicology detected marijuana but it didn’t find any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs. Eugene also tested negative for adulterants commonly mixed with street drugs.

An expert on toxicology testing said marijuana alone wasn’t likely to cause behavior as strange as Eugene’s.

“The problem today is that there is an almost an infinite number of chemical substances out there that can trigger unusual behavior,” said Dr. Bruce Goldberger, Professor and Director of Toxicology at the University of Florida.

There has been much speculation about what drugs, if any, would lead to the bizarre May 26 attack at a Miami causeway that left Poppo, 65, missing about 75 percent of his face. The tests ruled out the suggestion that 35-year-old Eugene may have been under the influence of bath salts, which mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine and have been associated with bizarre crimes in recent months.

An outside forensic toxicology lab, which took a second look at the results, also confirmed the absence of bath salts, synthetic marijuana and LSD.

Goldberger said the medical examiner’s office in Miami is known for doing thorough work and he’s confident they and the independent lab covered as much ground as possible. But it’s nearly impossible for toxicology testing to keep pace with new formulations of synthetic drugs.

“There are many of these synthetic drugs that we currently don’t have the methodology to test on, and that is not the fault of the toxicology lab. The challenge today for the toxicology lab is to stay on top of these new chemicals and develop methodologies for them but it’s very difficult and very expensive.” Goldberger said. “There is no one test or combination of tests that can detect every possible substance out there.”

An addiction expert said she wouldn’t rule out marijuana causing the agitation.

“It could have been the strain of marijuana that increases the dopamine in the brain, such as sativa,” said Dr. Patricia Junquera, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

There are two strains of marijuana called sativa and indica. The sativa increases dopamine and gives you energy while decreasing pain threshold. Indica is a “sleepy high,” she explained.

“People don’t really know what the amount of either is in each little packet of marijuana,” she explained. “And we can’t differentiate between the two in the blood, much less in a dead person.”

She also suggested that if Eugene had a mental disorder, “the marijuana could have increased even further the dopamine levels and aggravated the situation. So that can’t be ruled out.”

Eugene’s friends and family have said he was religious, not violent and that he didn’t drink or do drugs harder than marijuana, so they are baffled as to what caused Eugene’s brutal assault against the homeless victim.

“There’s no answer for it, not really,” said Marckenson Charles, Eugene’s younger brother. “Anybody who knew him knows this wasn’t the person we knew him to be. Whatever triggered him, there is no answer for this.”

Charles said the family does not plan to pursue any legal action against the police for shooting Eugene on the day of the face-chewing attack. Surveillance video from a nearby building shows Eugene stripping Poppo and pummeling him. The police officer who shot Eugene to death reportedly said Eugene growled at the officer when he told him to stop.

“They used the force they felt was necessary even if we don’t agree with that,” Charles said.

He said Eugene has been buried.

Poppo has undergone several surgeries and remains hospitalized. His left eye was removed, but doctors said earlier this month they were trying to find a way to restore vision in his right eye. He will need more surgeries before he can explore the options for reconstructing his face, doctors have said.

Syracuse councilors vote to ban synthetic drugs


Syracuse, N.Y. — The Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously today to make the sale or possession of synthetic drugs a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

2012-07-30-mjg-BathSalts1a.JPG

The council voted 8-0 to approve what Councilor-at-large Jean Kessner called “a stop-gap” measure necessary until the state Legislature bans the drugs statewide. The council also voted 8-0 to ask the state Legislature to approve a statewide ban.

“We’re waiting for leadership from the state,” said Kessner.

District 3 Councilor Bob Dougherty said he did not believe the law will stop people from using the drugs, noting that people still use cocaine, marijuana and other substances that have long been criminalized. However, he said he reluctantly voted for the ban because most of his constituents favored it.

“I’m kind of a voice in the wind,” said Dougherty.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said she will sign the ordinance.

 

City Council Bans Synthetic Drugs: Bath Salts Included
City Council Bans Synthetic Drugs: Bath Salts IncludedThe Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously today to make sure the sale or possession of synthetic drugs a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fineWatch video

 

The legislation introduced by Kessner comes in the wake of numerous bizarre incidents by individuals in Central New York suspected of being high on synthetic drugs, commonly called “bath salts” and “water.” The drugs have developed a reputation for making users paranoid and violent.

In the past month, law enforcement officers raided a handful of head shops in Central New York that were accused of selling products marketed as glass cleaner and incense that contained synthetic drugs. Workers at the stores told customers how to use the products to get high, according to law enforcement authorities.

Syracuse’s proposed local ordinance defines synthetic drugs as any product, whether described as tobacco, potpourri, herbs, incense, spice, aromatics, bath salts, synthetic marijuana, synthetic stimulant, or any combination, that contains more than a dozen specified chemical substances, and which has a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect on people.

Contact Rick Moriarty at rmoriarty@syracuse.com or 470-3148.

Here’s the proposed ordinance that councilors passed:

Arkansas ER’s Seeing More People With Synthetic Marijuana Side Effects


BENTONVILLE, Ark. — While Arkansas bans another form of synthetic marijuana, called “XLR11,” ER doctors say it’s not slowing users down.

It’s a little package that packs a big punch.

“People are seeing things, they’re hearing things, they want to kill themselves, they want to kill other people. It’s just really messed up,” says Dr. Jim Holden, who works in the emergency room at Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville.

Inside local ER’s, doctors find themselves treating the side effects of synthetic marijuana.

“We’ve seen a big increase over the past few years of young people and even older people with problems associated with K2 and Spice.”

But manufacturers keep changing the chemical compositions as fast as legislation is outlawing the substances.

“It’s easy to get and a lot of young people are using that. They don’t have to go out and find a dealer to buy marijuana from, they can just go to the convenience store and find someone to sell them this. Physically it’s a lot more dangerous than marijuana, I mean you can use it one time and you can die from it,” says Dr. Holden.

And it may be even more dangerous, just because it seems so innocent.

“People don’t really understand what it is the synthetic marijuana acts on the same receptors that marijuana does, but it acts in a totally different way.”

It’s different enough, to be deadly

“It can be life threatening. We’ve seen several episodes where people have died from using K2 and Spice.”

Which makes you wonder, why do people even mess with such a dangerous substance?

“We ask that all the time but its the same with any kind of drug abuse, methamphetamine alcohol abuse, it’s easy to get addicted to these drugs,” says Holden.

And while the law tries to keep up, the doctors in this ER hope people will take this little packet more seriously.

Drug empire outlined in court trial


An alleged gang boss stashed thousands of dollars worth of methamphetamine in Masterton cemeteries, a court has been told.

Paul Peter Mawana Rodgers, also known as Porky Rimene, is accused of distributing more than three kilograms of meth into the Wellington region between mid-2009 and early 2011.

The drugs would have had a street value of about $3 million.

Rodgers, 40, had so many places to bury drugs and money it was hard to keep track of them, a former associate, whose name was suppressed, said in the High Court at Wellington yesterday.

The witness said he was at Rodgers’ beck and call, was often beaten, did drug deals for him, and buried drugs and money at sites around Wellington and Wairarapa, often on the properties of neighbours, including in Island Bay and Strathmore.

A groundsman at Riverside Cemetery, Masterton, found a container of about $7000 worth of methamphetamine that had been buried at the base of a tree.

Another stash was almost lost when bulldozers went through a public walking track, shifting a container of drugs. The witness said he had to work at night with a hired metal detector to find it. Rodgers told him if he did not find it when he was digging he would be put in the hole instead, the witness said.

While Rodgers visited the graves of relatives at a private urupa in Kibblewhite Rd, Masterton, he directed the witness to bury drugs or money in the grounds or under nearby buildings.

The witness said more drugs were lost when he put a spade through a plastic container of methamphetamine and dirt contaminated the drugs. Rodgers hit him with the spade and charged him $15,000 for the ruined drugs.

“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” the witness said.

The witness said he managed to remove the dirt and salvaged some of the methamphetamine.

Giving evidence via closed circuit television, the witness said Rodgers spent money on the high life, going to restaurants, staying in hotels, buying gadgets and big screen televisions. “You name it, he had it.”

Rodgers went on a spending spree, buying enormous American cars and customising motorbikes. He changed BMWs and Mercedes if they became known to police.

“He liked American V8s and if he saw one he wanted he would buy it, on a whim almost,” the witness said.

Rodgers has pleaded guilty to supplying methamphetamine between July 2009 and February 2011, offering to supply the drug, conspiring to obstruct the course of justice, money laundering and taking part in a criminal group.

However, he disputes he had the leading role and is expected to deny he was the captain of the Wellington Nomads gang. Justice Stephen Kos has to decide the disputes.

In the High Court at Wellington yesterday prosecutor Simon Barr began presenting the evidence the Crown says proves the extent of the drug deals and Rodgers’ role in it.

The hearing continues today.

Bath Salts Problem Grows, Drug Counselors Say They Have Their Hands Full


 

The drug landscape is changing all across the country.  No longer are people just relying on what comes from the Earth.

They’re smoking, inhaling and shooting what chemists make in the lab.  They’re producing marijuana or bath salts.

There was a major bust around the country by the Drug Enforcement Agency.  Investigators found $59 million worth of synthetic marijuana in the Houston area alone.

It comes in small packets that indicate it’s approved by the DEA. Federal investigators say to laugh at that.

Chris Davis has been a drug counselor at Right Step in Houston for more than a decade.

“It’s up there with methamphetamine and cocaine,” Davis said.

He has 10 people he’s currently working with who are hooked on bath salts, a drug that hit the market about two years ago.

It’s a chemical mix that contains amphetamine-like chemicals and Davis says it’s just as addictive as other drugs like cocaine and the symptoms vary.

“Hallucinations and delusional, it can be very scary they can be very paranoid,” Davis said.  “It’s similar to what could happen to using methamphetamines.”

Davis says he’s glad federal agents on cracking down on the synthetic drugs that have landed in smoke shops around the county.

He says the results have made headlines with zombie like users in Florida.  He says it’s not a drug to take lightly and it’s difficult to shake.

“It takes a longer time for them to stabilize.  It’s pretty tough,” Davis said

 

 

 

 

USE OF SYNTHETIC DRUGS IS CUTTING SHORT CAREERS AND LIVES


As the surgeon general of the Navy, I am in awe of the young sailors and Marines who serve so gallantly. My most solemn days are those when I see a shipmate fall from wounds or illness. I also have the solemn task on occasion to review the case of a vibrant sailor or Marine who played Russian roulette with synthetic drugs such as “spice” or “bath salts” and lost, costing them their career, future and possibly life.

Sadly, this is no different from the real game where a round eventually chambers, and all is lost.

The issues that keep me up at night are the ones that have the most impact on personnel readiness and our ability to help sailors and Marines meet their missions. For me, undoubtedly the prevalence and growing popularity of synthetic forms of drugs like marijuana, the most common of which are spice and, in more recent months, bath salts, is one of those issues. These products are enough of a concern in our society that the federal government placed a ban on the sale of these man-made designer compounds earlier this month.

The U.S. military represents a microcosm of our much larger population and in many ways strives to be a reflection of the society we serve, so we share many of the same health and safety issues as the general population, including the increased use of these dangerous and debilitating drugs — which not only affect our service members’ health, but also our readiness as a military force. For nearly a year now, Navy leaders have taken a multitiered approach to combating this escalating issue in our forces, and with our partners in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Naval Personnel Command and throughout our naval enterprise, we have made progress in deterring and detecting use.

The challenge remains though, as these drugs are easy to obtain and are falsely marketed by manufacturers as a safe way to get high while avoiding drug detection. It is important for sailors and Marines to know that despite manufacturer claims, we can and are testing for these drugs.

The chemicals found in these drugs are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and no two batches are alike, meaning it is nearly impossible to determine the drug’s potency. Most packaging clearly reads, “Not for human consumption,” and that is for good reason. Military and civilian health professionals continue to learn more about the negative health effects of synthetic drug use, and the data are alarming.

Bath salts are essentially chemically engineered products meant to stimulate the central nervous system — similar to drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine and Ecstasy.

Detrimental effects of the drug, which is also marketed as “plant food” or “herbal incense,” include but are not limited to extreme paranoid delusions and hallucinations, anxiety, agitation, aggression, tremors, seizures and dysphoria.

Unlike marijuana, the synthetic chemicals in spice-type products are more potent to the brain and other organs because they bind themselves more permanently to receptors. Spice could have multiple unknown chemicals including harmful metal residues, with unknown potency potentially five to 200 times more potent than the THC in marijuana. Users are also experimenting by combining different products, which can dramatically change or increase the effects. Rapid tolerance in some users can lead to increased dosage and addiction, either physical or psychological. According to the DEA, increased use of spice and other synthetics has led to a surge in emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers.

 

Synthetic drug ban slows ‘plant food’ epldemic


It was cheap. It was legal. It made people see werewolves and shoot at ghosts.

It was sold as plant food, though it’s doubtful any legitimate gardener ever bought a tiny packet of white powder for the benefit of her azaleas.

It was mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant whose chemical formula was sufficiently different from methadrine, cocaine or other regulated pharmceuticals to make it legal to sell, possess and use — although its effects on the mind and body could be as devastating as any drug available on the black market.

In Winona, plant food first drew police attention in November 2010. By the following spring, users were filling the jail, courts and the emergency room.

“It was scary,” said Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman. “People were taking these drugs and didn’t know the effect.”

What police and emergency-room personnel did know was that the effects — paranoia, hallucinations and bizarre, unpredictable behavior — were often devastating. Brett Whyte, chief of emergency services at Winona Health, said that last summer more than three people a week were brought to the emergency room because of plant food.

In the past three months, they haven’t had a single case, he said.

What has changed?

On July 1, 2011, sale and possession of plant food, bath salts, spice and a variety of other synthetic stimulants and hallucinogens became illegal in Minnesota. Winona Sen. Jeremy Miller was a lead author of the bill signed into law in May.

In the weeks leading up to the day the law went into effect, police incidents linked to plant food and synthetic drugs increased in number—and severity. Exactly how prevalent plant food became is all but impossible to determine, Winona Police Chief Paul Bostrack said, because as a legal substance its use or possession wasn’t a police matter unless it was related to illegal or disruptive activity.

However, police reports from June 2011 link plant food use to cases of assault, child endangerment, reckless use of firearms, false reporting of crimes, a biting attack on an emergency room physician, theft, and counterfeiting.

Plant food use also correlated to a dramatic spike in child protective service petitions, Sonneman said — up to 75 percent of the non-truancy cases in 2011 involved allegations of plant food use by one or both parents.

As July 1 approached, police prepared to enforce the new law. Bostrack promised aggressive enforcement, assisted by a new test that gave positive field identification of plant food.

“We will treat it like any other controlled substance,” Bostrack said. And as one young man learned less than an hour after the ban went into effect, at the stroke of midnight having plant food in your pocket in Winona was as serious in the eyes of the law as cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin.

Initially, police and prosecutors were not expecting a dramatic change in behavior on the street.

But as abruptly as it arrived, plant food seemed to go away.

In September, Winona Health administrator Rebecca Lamberty reported a decrease in emergency room cases involving plant food, from an average of six cases per week prior to July 1 to three cases total between July 1 and the end of August.

Assistant County Attorney Christina Davenport said based on the number of people known to be using the drug a year ago, the number of cases charged is lower than had been anticipated. She said there have been at least 20 cases involving synthetic drugs filed, and while the drug is still on the streets, users have perhaps become more discrete.

“It was obviously a huge problem for us a year ago,” she said. “I think they’re becoming more secretive about using it.”

Sonneman suggested another possible and more optimistic rationale.

“Some people actually do stop using,” she said, “They realize, ‘This could be bad for me.’”

The Winona County Attorney’s Office reports one more number. Of all child protective service petitions filed in 2012, they are not aware of a single one that involved plant food.

DEA raids smoke shops in Las Cruces, Sunland Park, Alamogordo


LAS CRUCES — Federal and local law enforcement officers raided several smoke shops Wednesday in Las Cruces, as well as one business in Sunland Park, as part of a nationwide investigation into the alleged production and distribution of synthetic drugs.

Masked agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, assisted by LCPD officers, were seen removing several large boxes of evidence from at least three retail locations near the intersection of South Solano Drive and East Idaho Avenue.

Federal agents also raided the Station Recreation smoke shop on 1621 Appaloosa in Sunland Park. DEA officials did not say Wednesday if any raids in southern New Mexico resulted in arrests.

An affidavit filed in support of the search warrants in the U.S. District Court for New Mexico indicates that 14 businesses in Las Cruces, Sunland Park and Alamogordo were targeted for allegedly selling illegal synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as Spice, and synthetic cathinones, more popularly known as “bath salts.”

Two smoke shops in Silver City, Twisted Illusions and The Smoke Shop, were not raided and neither sells Spice, workers said.

In January, the DEA, joined by other federal and local law enforcement agencies, began investigating the smoke shops, often sending undercover agents to purchase suspected synthetic drugs, according to court documents.

“Each undercover operation has resulted in the seizure of individual-used sized containers containing a plant material that is believed to

have been treated with chemicals or a powdery-like substance,” DEA agent Jeffery S. Castillo wrote in his affidavit.

The raids in southern New Mexico appeared to be part of a coordinated nationwide investigation as the DEA on Wednesday also raided businesses in El Paso, Albuquerque, as well as locations in California, Utah, New York and New Hampshire, according to published reports.

“DEA agents are conducting numerous enforcement operations throughout the region … This is part of a bigger operation,” said Carmen Coutino, a spokeswoman for the DEA office in El Paso.

The search warrant for the businesses in southern New Mexico, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen E. Garza, authorized agents to seize written and electronic documents, financial records, suspected synthetic drugs and paraphernalia, as well as security camera recordings.

Witnesses at Somewhere Else Comics Games, one of 10 businesses in Las Cruces targeted by the DEA, said Wednesday that police officers entered the business with guns drawn, announcing they were raiding the establishment.

“They pat-frisked me and my son. It was very scary for us,” said one woman who declined to give her name. She and her 13-year-old son sat inside a vehicle outside the store at 1230 S. Solano Drive.

Authorities also raided Phat Glass, located next door to Somewhere Else Comics and Games, and Smokin Supply, less than a quarter-mile away at 1315 S. Solano Drive.

“They came in, guns drawn, told me to put my hands up and handcuffed me,” said Maurice Portillo, co-owner of Smokin Supply, who was not arrested and subsequently released.

Portillo said the DEA agents “tore” through his shop, turning around security cameras and taking cell phones, business records, as well as glass containers and herbal incense products that are often described as synthetic marijuana because of their chemical composition.

Portillo, a 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran and student at New Mexico State University, said he believed the products he sold were legal, noting that he bought them from a distributor who also provided literature vouching for their legality with DEA drug scheduling provisions.

“I don’t do any illegal business out here. There’s no history of anything illegal here,” said Portillo, who opened his business about six weeks ago. Portillo said the DEA agents did not tell him what they were looking for, and made several references to the operation being “Obama (expletive).”

“I was like, ‘This is just (expletive) politics …,'” Portillo said.

On July 9, President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, which instituted tougher criminal penalties for selling some first-generation synthetic drugs — such as K2 and Spice — as well as some newer ones.

In March 2011, the DEA “emergency scheduled” several chemicals often found in herbal incense products that make them chemically similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

However, Castillo wrote in his affidavit that “clandestine manufacturers and traffickers” began distributing smokable cannabinoid products in an attempt to circumvent newly enacted federal and state laws.

Castillo said the criminal offenses possibly committed by the investigation’s targets include possession with intent to distribute analogs of a controlled substance, and selling drug paraphernalia.

Portillo, whose store also sells health items, regular tobacco products, cell phones, vaporizers and storage containers, said he never believed he was selling anything illegal and added that he cooperated with authorities. He also said the raid will only temporarily hurt his business.

“We’ll be all right. We’ll be back,” he said.

Brian Fraga can be reached at (575) 541-5462; Follow him on Twitter @bfraga

 

Closer look

The Drug Enforcement Administration, investigating the alleged production and distribution of synthetic drugs, obtained search warrants for the following businesses in southern New Mexico:

— Phat Glass, 1211 East Idaho, Las Cruces

— Phat Glass South, 306 Union, Las Cruces

— Phat Glass Too, 109 North New York, Alamogordo

— Phat Glass 3, 823 North New York, Alamogordo

— Sam’s Gift Shop and Smoking Accessories, 607-C South White Sands Boulevard, Alamogordo

— Neverwhere, 940 North Main, Las Cruces

— Somewhere Else Comic Books and Games, 1230 South Solano, Las Cruces

— Zia Tattoo, 1300 El Paseo, Las Cruces

— Station Recreation, 1621 Appaloosa, Sunland Park

— The Realm Hookah Lounge, 991 West Picacho, Las Cruces

— Smokin Supply, 1315 South Solano, Las Cruces

— Hookah Outlet, 1900 South Espina, Las Cruces

— Subherbia, 1200 East Madrid, Las Cruces

— Subherbia 2, 150 South Solano, Las Cruces
1:27 p.m.

LAS CRUCES — Federal and local law enforcement officers raided at least three Las Cruces smoke shops today as part of a wider investigation into synthetic drugs.

Masked agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, assisted by LCPD officers, are still on-scene at Phat Glass, 1211 East Idaho Ave., Smokin Supply, 1315 South Solano Drive, and Somewhere Else Comics and Games, 1230 South Solano Drive.

Police entered the comic store/smoke shop this morning with guns drawn and announced that they were raiding the business, said two witnesses who were inside the store.

Witnesses said the agents were “looking through everything” in the store, checking counters, receipts, and pat-frisking everybody inside the business and asking for their identifications.

Federal agents were also seen bringing evidence bags inside the stores.

DEA spokesman Carmen Coutino confirmed that the investigation was related to synthetic drugs. DEA agents in New Mexico and Texas have raided other smoke shops looking to confiscate synthetic marijuana, commonly known as SPICE, according to multiple media reports.

Coutino said more information will be released later today, adding: “DEA agents are conducting numerous enforcement operations throughout the region. This is part of a bigger operation.”

12:16 p.m.

LAS CRUCES — Shops near the corner of Solano Drive and Idaho Avenue may be part of a federal raid by agents looking to confiscate the synthetic drug Spice.

According to Sun-News reporter Brian Fraga, the Las Cruces Police Department is assisting the Drug Enforcement Agency in an investigation Wednesday at Phat Glass, 1211 E. Idaho Ave., Smokin’ Supply, 1315 S. Solano Drive, and Somewhere Else Comics and Games, 1230 S. Solano Drive.

 

Police entered the comic store/smoke shop this morning with guns drawn and announced they were raiding the business, two witnesses on scene said.

DEA agents are raiding locations across New Mexico, according to multiple media sources.

DEA agents raided at least one location in Sunland Park and KOB.com is reporting DEA raided 16 locations in Albuquerque today.

A spokeswoman for the agency told KFOX14 that they are looking to confiscate Spice.

Spice refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana and that are marketed as safe, legal alternatives to that drug, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Synthetic marijuana was banned in New Mexico in April 2011.