youths hospitalized after smoking herbal incense



If trying to keep your son or daughter away from drugs wasn’t already hard enough, Fort St. John RCMP are now warning parents about a new way some area youth have tried in order to get high. Corporal Jodi Shelkie says some youth in the Fort St. John area have tried smoking incense in an attempt to get the same effect as illegal drugs.

There are several synthetic legal intoxicating drugs for sale that are marketed as “herbal incense” or synthetic marijuana, and Shelkie says the youth thought this incense would work the same way.

“I don’t think it was marketed as that, but I believe the youth thought it was that,” she explains. “They did believe that there would be some sort of high from smoking it.”

What these youths were using was labelled with a “not for human consumption” warning, and several became very ill after misusing it. Some were even hospitalized. RCMP are now reminding the public that incense is not made for human consumption, and should only be used as intended.

“This would be a good opening for parents to say, not only should you not smoke drugs, but don’t smoke anything that you think might get you high like a drug.”

The RCMP are not confirming where the youth obtained the incense, or where they heard that it would have the same effect as illegal drugs.

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Synthetic Drug Ring In Allentown Busted By DEA


Thats right 15 people were arrested in bust of alleged synthetic drugs operation run from Allentown warehouse.
NORRISTOWN, Montgomery County — The inventory in an old east Allentown warehouse was a drug user’s paradise: rows and rows of colorful glass smoking bongs, boxes holding thousands of grinders and scales, hundreds of rolling papers and about $200,000.

For store owners in the region looking to score chemically enhanced drugs like bath salts and synthetic marijuana, not to mention the goods needed to smoke them, J&L Wholesale Distributors at 1006 Hanover Ave. was the place to go, authorities say.

J&L’s lucrative enterprise, housed in a nondescript building near a day care center and in a school zone, kicked into high gear when synthetic drugs were declared illegal in Pennsylvania a year ago, authorities said.

But that came crashing down Thursday for J&L owner Kenneth Grossman when police rounded up him and 14 others, mostly from the Lehigh Valley. Authorities said they say helped push a relatively cheap high on drug users from the Lehigh Valley to New Jersey.

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All were charged with participating in a corrupt organization and profiting from the proceeds of illegal activity, both first-degree felonies, and related drug offenses.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said during a news conference with Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin that the elaborate drug sting, known as “Operation Bowls, Bongs and Beyond,” put a dent in the drug trade in both counties, yielded synthetic marijuana, two tractor-trailers filled with paraphernalia, plus several guns.

Police also seized more than $900,000, including money from the warehouse and several bank accounts, and dozens of common items such as soda cans, sugar containers and clocks that were hollowed out to create secret compartments used to hide drugs.

Grossman, 52, of 820 E. Chew St., Allentown also was part of a partnership that ran Insense Specialties, which supplied the illegal drugs, mainly synthetic marijuana and bath salts, authorities said. The others in the partnership were: Jason Grossman, 24, of 1847 Cloverdale Road, Bethlehem; Rajwant Thind, 30, of 6498 Overlook Road, Orefield; and Malwinder Mangat, 26, of 1016 Hilltop Court, Leesport.

Martin said the arrests show authorities are making good on their pledge last year to crack down on store owners selling the drugs that became illegal in August 2011 and their suppliers.

“Hopefully, they will get the message that we will prosecute,” Martin said.

Known as designer drugs, the substances are made from natural herbs and synthetic chemicals to mirror the effects of drugs like marijuana. But the drugs have been known to cause erratic and violent behavior in those who take them. Police say people high on the synthetic drugs have unusual strength and tolerance to pain.

Ferman said she was particularly disturbed that the drugs were targeted at youngsters, with packaging labeled “Scooby Snax” and with the Batman emblem. She pointed out an incident in June 30 during which a 20-year-old man from Upper Pottsgrove Township, Montgomery County, involved in a vehicle crash told medics that he was hallucinating after smoking a substance called “K-2” and took his hands off the wheel “to see what happened.”

“This is a huge, profitable business and these people are in it for the money,” Ferman said. “This is a community [in Allentown] where children are in the neighborhood. These are toxic, dangerous substances.”

Ferman said J&L became the prime target of the probe involving multiple police departments after investigators realized that items seized in store busts all led back to the warehouse. Among the stores that allegedly distributed the drugs and paraphernalia: Deli Mart, South Whitehall Township; Trexler Plaza Sunoco in Upper Macungie Township; the EZ Shoppe in East Greenville; Main Street Market in Schwenksville; and U.S. Gas in Upper Frederick Township.

Detective Joseph P. Kelly Jr. of Souderton police, who helped head the investigation, said Grossman even took his show on the road to branch out, bringing samples to an October 2011 “head shop” convention in Atlantic City, N.J.,

Police went as far as setting up a fake business in Souderton to order items from J&L, and used multiple informants to pin down all of the players.

Thind, identified in court records as manager of the Trexler Plaza Sunoco at 5917 Tilghman St., Upper Macungie, told police that Kenneth Grossman took a majority of the synthetic drug product orders and that Thind and Mangat filled the orders and sent the products to customers.

The others charged were employees of Grossman’s company or store owners who bought items from J&L and resold them.

They include: Kunal G. Patel, 42, of 377 Indigo Way, Upper Macungie; Jaymin G. Patel, 45, of 457 Wild Mint Lane, Upper Macungie; Dean A. Fenstermaker Jr., 29, of 4272 Windsor Drive, Upper Macungie; Jeffrey Robertson Jr., 25, of 10441 Trexler Road, Upper Macungie; Abdulah F. Soonasra, 64, of 1713 Brookstone Drive, Alburtis; Lisa A. Zupa, 35, of 233 Harvard Avenue, Palmerton; Mohammed F. Rahman, 42, of Lansdale; Ibrahim Fayez Saloum, 41, of Schwenksville; Amy N. Velazquez, 30, of Schwenksville; Yashvant M. Patel, 49, of East Greenville; Yogesh Patel, 44, of East Greenville.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting all of the cases.

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.

Recreational drugs come in many forms


MOUNT VERNON — They’re called recreational drugs, but the term defies logic. They come in all forms, and go by many names. Pills, powders, liquids, crystals, crushed leaves and gases are smoked, sniffed, swallowed or injected. Users may want to get up or get down, or merely escape their problems for awhile. They do it with Spice and Special K, roofies and reefers, Dexies and downers, snappers and smack, and the result is seldom pretty.

The seedy subculture of drug abuse creates a few millionaires and many slaves. Kids seeking a thrill and addicts craving a fix spend billions on drugs. They don’t set out to become dependent or cross criminal lines, and they certainly don’t intend to die — that only happens to the other guy.

This series of articles has discussed heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, bath salts and marijuana, and while those are among the most common illegal drugs, they by no means stand alone. Prescription medications are abused by millions. Clandestine labs concoct substances that toy with the delicate workings of the human brain. And there is widespread abuse of the least imaginable common substances as inhalants.

Experts routinely use the term epidemic in regards to prescription opiates, and the Justice Department estimates that more than seven million Americans, including 6.6 percent of kids aged 12-17 and 11.9 percent of those 18-25, misused painkillers at least once in 2009. Overdose deaths attributed to prescription painkillers exceed those from heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine combined.

Drug users also seek out other medications. Central nervous system depressants that are prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, such as Nembutal, Valium and Xanax, may be obtained through friends, stolen from family members, purchased from drug dealers or acquired through doctor shopping. The same is true for stimulants like Dexedrine, Adderall and Ritalin, which are prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy patients.

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

 

 

 

 

DEA Cracks Down on Synthetic Designer Drugs


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.

 

Synthetic Marijuana is ‘Dangerous Stuff’


In the wake of raids on a dozen Washington County businesses selling the drug, Dr. Neil Capretto of Gateway Rehabilitation said the problem is ‘everywhere.’

 

Dr. Neil Capretto said one patient who came intoGateway Rehabilitation called the synthetic pot he was smoking “like marijuana on steroids.”

In the wake of a raid of a dozen Washington County businesses that were selling the synthetic marijuana, often packaged as incense and labeled “not fit for human consumption,” Capretto, Gateway’s medical director, said the use of such “designer drugs” is on the rise.

“It’s everywhere,” the doctor said. “It’s through most of the country now.”

And it’s getting worse, he said. Right now, he said there are 140 different versions of synthetic marijuana, and each has its own “tweaked” version of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in the drug.

The concept is based of research done in the 1990s by a scientist who was working to create a synthetic form of the drug for legitimate reasons, trying to mimic the relaxation and sedation effects of marijuana.

But Capretto said the doctor later abandoned the research because the synthetic version was similar “but much, much more potent.”

How much more?

“It was two to 10 times more potent,” Capretto said, adding that the potency causes much more extreme effects, including hallucinations and loss of motor-coordination skills.

Generally smoked, the products sold and seized at local shops come mostly from China, where makers spray the drug on plant material, and market it as incense or potpourri.

“It’s like, ‘Wink, wink,” but everyone knows,” Capretto said. “This is some very potent, dangerous stuff.”

And while the drugs have made its way into many circles, the doctor said it’s use it most common in two groups.

The first group includes people between the ages of 18 and 30.

The other group? People in the legal system or a work environment that requires regular drug testing.

Capretto said that while technology is advancing, it’s difficult to screen for the drug because its make-up is slightly different from traditional THC.

 

“So you pass your drug test,” Capretto said.

He asked parents and members of the community to be vigilant—and not assume that the name “synthetic marijuana” or the fact it can be found in convenience stores and gas stations are signs it is safe to consume.

And he said he thinks the stores, which he said have made as much as $100,000 a year selling the synthetic marijuana also known also as K2 or K3, should be held accountable.

“We have to hold their feet to the fire,” Capretto 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 use up among teens, counselor warns


The number of teens Todd Hoffe works with who use plant food dropped slightly after the drug and other synthetics were banned last summer.

Maybe it was fear of prosecution, or of the powerful hallucinogen itself, the Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center adolescent counselor said last week.

Either way, Hoffe said, within the past month he has noticed a resurgence.

He’s also noticed constant talk about a different man-made drug — synthetic marijuana, also called K2. A year-and-a-half ago, he would mention the substance and kids would ask him what is was.

Now they’re educating him.

A study released last December by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that one in nine high school seniors had tried synthetic marijuana in the past year. It can cause seizures and other dangerous side effects.

There aren’t specific numbers for states or cities, but Hoffe guesses, from what he has heard, that the percentage now is much higher.

To combat the use of synthetic substances and other drugs among teens, the Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center, Winona Senior High School principal Kelly Halvorsen and Cindy Althoff, director of the Miller Mentoring program, have proposed implementing a chemical-dependency treatment program this fall for high school students that would provide both substance abuse and mental health counseling.

Students would attend the free treatment in the morning at the former Central Elementary School building, then return to the high school in the afternoon for a half-day of classes. Participants would receive academic credit for the morning treatment.

“I don’t even know if there is a program around that looks like this,” Hoffe said earlier this month at a Winona Area Public Schools Board meeting.

“It’s very creative. It’s very now. It’s very needed.”

An pilot program with six students this fall would cost the school district an estimated $25,000.

Board members have expressed support and asked to see at a future meeting how much it would cost to expand the program, called Pathways, to a larger number of students. The board is scheduled to vote on the initiative at its meeting Thursday.

 

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.