DEA: 31-state bust for bath salts, synthetic marijuana

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart announcing a nationwide bust for synthetic drugs, at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Va., Thursday, July 26, 2012

(Credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON – More than $36 million in cash was seized and 91 people in 31 states were arrested in a nationwide crackdown on “designer drugs” such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts.



Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 4.9 million packets of synthetic marijuana, as well as material to make 13.6 million more packages, said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. DEA and other law enforcement agencies also seized 167,000 packages of bath salts and materials to make an additional 392,000 packets.

Leonhart said the synthetic drugs are “marketed directly to teenagers.” The drugs have become a popular alternative to traditional street drugs, but law enforcement and health professionals warned that the chemicals used to make them haven’t been tested or approved for human consumption.

Agents raided smoke shops and other sellers of synthetic drugs that are linked to psychotic episodes and deaths of users. The synthetic marijuana is sold under brand names such as “K2” and “Spice.”

The agency temporarily banned some of the chemicals found in synthetic marijuana, and President Barack Obama signed a measure this month that bans the sale, production and possession of many of the chemicals found in most popular synthetic drugs.

But experts who studied the drugs estimate that there are more than 100 different bath-salt chemicals circulating. Bath salts can mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.

Synthetic drug use has grown since the products were first introduced into the market a few years ago. Authorities say they are readily available for purchase in smoke shops and sometimes even corner gas stations, and at a relatively low price, and that’s made them a popular alternative to street drugs.

Synthetic marijuana ‘spice’ blamed for attack on elderly California couple


synthetic marijuana 6 25 2012

A man holds a Bible with leaves pasted on the cover simulating a marijuana plant during a demo for its legalization in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 19, 2012. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Synthetic marijuana known as “spice” has been blamed on an attack on an elderly California couple.

Matthew See, 23, was being held in jail overnight in lieu of $50,000 bail, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police said See had smoked spice Saturday morning before he was seen standing outside the couple’s Costa Mesa apartment and speaking gibberish.

He then allegedly stole the 70-year-old man’s sunglasses before shoving him to the ground and forcing his way into the apartment, where he assaulted the man’s 69-year-old wife.

Synthetic marijuana was also blamed for an attack earlier this month in Jupiter, in which the smoker threatened to rape his sister.

According to CBS News, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office responded to a domestic battery call on June 13 and on arrival, were told by the 36-year-old woman that her brother, Scotty Dean Ruthardt, grabbed her from behind and covered her mouth, dragging her into his bedroom. He told her he was going to rape her.

Ruthardt, 44, who was arrested over the incident, had also been arrested in February for assaulting a police officer, firefighter or EMT.

Synthetic marijuana has become popular among illicit drug users as it contains synthetic cannabinoids that do not show up on toxicology screens.

More from GlobalPost: Poland battles synthetic pot boom

A form of synthetic marijuana called K2 was last year blamed for causing heart attacks in three teenage boys.

According to a separate LA Times article, the Texas teens, all 16, were otherwise healthy and had no signs of cardiovascular disease.

Each reported chest pain shortly after smoking K2 but recovered after treatment.

In Sunday’s incident, See had warned the elderly couple not to call 911 but upon leaving the apartment remained in the area, enabling the victims to point him out to police.

He was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of robbery, burglary, attempted sexual assault, false imprisonment and public intoxication.

Doctors Warn Of K2 Dangers

(TERRE HAUTE) – Several recent reports show an increasing number of people overdosing on synthetic marijuana, or K2, including two on back to back days.

Tuesday, Vigo County Drug Task Force officers raided three local businesses known for carrying the drug.

“The message should be loud and clear, the message is that we’re not going to tolerate these synthetic drugs being sold any longer in this county,” Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said.

The drug raid resulted in hundreds of thousands of packets of synthetic marijuana found, some targeting young kids, with Scooby-Doo on the front.

However, what many of you don’t realize, is how dangerous these drugs are.

“This is not what you think it is. It does not have the same effects, it is not the same drug,” Psychologist Dr. Thomas Rea said.

Dr. Rea has seen at least one patient every one to two weeks with synthetic drug-related symptoms.

“It can affect the central nervous symptoms, it can cause seizures, confusion, agitation, partial loss of consciousness, it can affect the metabolic system, the metabolic processes of the body, it can affect gastrointestinal function, it can affect your cardiovascular functioning, have high blood pressure,” Dr. Rea said.

Reports also include heart attacks and death.

Dr. Rea said the big attraction is ingredients don’t come up in a drug test. That makes it much more dangerous than regular marijuana because you never know what you’re getting.

“It’s deadly, it’s dangerous, chemically it’s very different and referring to it as a legalized marijuana just completely misses the picture,” he said.
It’s an ongoing problem in our community that doctors and local drug enforcers are asking for retailers and your help in making it stop.
Officers believe more businesses are selling the drug, which is a felony in Indiana.

If a business is raided, those retailers are asked to sign an agreement to not sell those items.

If they continue, they will be prosecuted.

Alleged user, sellers of man-made pot charged in crash

A Pottstown man who police said was “flying” on K2, or synthetic pot, and two others who supplied it from behind the counter of a local convenience store were charged Monday in connection with a May 21 car crash that killed two people.

In the first charges to be lodged in Montgomery County under the state’s recent ban on synthetic drugs, police announced the filing of two counts of vehicular homicide against Roger Malloy, 27, of the 300 block of N. York Street.

Malloy told police he had just smoked K2 on May 21 when the Lincoln Continental he was driving went out of control on rain-slick pavement, killing Pottstown residents James Crawford, 28, and Rachel Witt, 15, who were in the car.

A third passenger, Kendall Harper, 16, was severely injured in the crash on State Street in the northwestern Montgomery County borough, police said.

Police also announced the arrest of Rafie Ali, 34, of the 400 block of E. High Street, and Mohamed Himed, 25, of the Bronx, N.Y.

Ali, authorities allege, was proprietor of the store where Malloy purchased the K2. Himed was a clerk.

The pair were charged with corrupt organizations, delivering a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to court papers, the two peddled the illegal substance for $5 a bag or vial from behind the counter of the Achi store, a convenience shop at 315 E. High Street.

The pair were not charged with vehicular homicide because the anti-synthetic drug legislation passed Aug. 22, 2011, has no provision for that.

“We can’t file homicide charges against them, but make no mistake, they do have blood on their hands,” said District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman during a briefing in Norristown.

The two men were arraigned late Monday before District Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr., who ordered each held on $1 million bail in the Montgomery County prison. Malloy was awaiting arraignment before Kropp late Monday.

Ferman portrayed the case as a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when young people use synthetic marijuana.

Also known as “spice,” “K2” and fake weed, it is a manmade chemical compound that can be sprayed on a natural herb. When smoked, it delivers a high similar to THC, the prime ingredient in marijuana.

“K2 might look like something from a candy store, but it can kill,” Ferman said. She said young people use it because they believe it is cheap, relative to marijuana, and because they think “it’s not dangerous.”

“It can get you into as much trouble as other illegal drugs,” she warned.

On June 15, 2011, a 16-year-old Upper Moreland boy who had just smoked K2 jumped off the third story of a parking garage in Abington Township and was severely injured.

Police said the boy was sitting in a car with three friends about 8 p.m. when “he began to act oddly and may have been hallucinating.”

“He suddenly climbed out of the car. . .and ran full speed and leaped off of the deck,” detectives said. No charges were filed in connection with the incident because the synthetic drug ban had yet to become law.

In the Pottstown case, the K2 “caused [Malloy’s] heart to beat faster, blurred his vision, and caused a sense of panic,” according to court papers.

The car skidded 443 feet before coming to rest in an alley. Malloy pulled his friends from the back seat of the car and then vanished, police said. Malloy was apprehended May 22 while trying to escape authorities on a bicycle.


Snyder praised for signing anti-K2, Spice, bath salts bills into law

Holland —Supporters are thrilled after Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills barring over-the-counter sales of synthetic marijuana (called K2, Spice and other names) and other synthetic drugs.

The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, means anyone making or selling these items face the same legal penalties as those making and selling meth or marijuana. Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, sponsored one of those bills.

Synthetic marijuana is dried plant material sprayed with chemicals. The unregulated chemicals can cause everything from heart palpitations and vomiting to seizures, paranoia and suicidal tendencies. People using these types of drugs are addicted more quickly than to already regulated drugs.

Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz hailed the new laws but also expressed concern over a remaining loophole.

“I still worry about availability through the Internet,” he said, noting that a recent case was traced to sales of a drug called bath salts sold by a North Carolina retailer to an Ottawa County resident.

The new laws stop a pattern of manufacturers altering the products’ makeup to get around existing regulations. Once the laws go into effect, the Department of Community Health and Michigan Board of Pharmacy will have the authority to temporarily name a drug as a controlled substance to limit the spread of new combinations.

For Lynn Prins, a Zeeland mom who organized a protest to halt sales in her town, the news is “fantastic.

“It’s going to help get it off the shelves and out of our kids’ hands,” she said. “Now we just need police departments to step up and keep on top of it and keep it off the shelves.”

Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema, speaking by phone the National Sheriff’s Conference in Nashville, Tenn., said the law will limit the horrible consequences from the over-the-counter sales.

“Some of these devastating stories are just bizarre and sad,” he said, adding that other law enforcement officials at the convention have been talking about how their states are trying to address the same issues, which, he said, appear to be worse in more rural communities.

“This has been a major concern, not just for law enforcement but more significantly for the community for quite some time,” Rosema said. Dependency happens quickly, he said, and many instances in the recent rash of breaking-and-entering cases in Ottawa County were linked to this type of substance abuse.

Synthetic Marijuana Gives Users Legal High

Across the country, demand for a synthetic form of marijuana is soaring. Unlike the real thing, this drug – called spice or K2 – is legal in most states. Now, a handful of lawmakers are taking action. This week Missouri became the sixth state to ban the use of K2.

It’s a designer drug fad fueled online, CBS News Correspondent Seth Doane reports. Brian Siegal first heard about it from friends and then saw it on the Internet.

“The word gets out so quickly and just spreads like wildfire,” Siegel said.

It has names like spice and genie but is mostly known as K2, providing a high likened to marijuana. If you have not heard of it yet, staffers at places such as the Georgia Poison Center sure have, fielding more than 50 calls about K2 in the last two months.

“We started seeing a mushrooming of calls,” Dr. Gaylor Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center, said.

Nationwide, more than 500 people have phoned poison centers about the drug already this year, up from just 12 calls last year.

The synthetic marijuana is packaged in brightly colored bags and may only look harmless.

“This is incredibly dangerous,” Lopez said.

K2 can be up to 15 times more powerful than marijuana and lead to a disturbing range of symptoms, Lopez said.

“We’ve seen people with slight tremors to even seizure activity,” Lopez said.

Still, K2 is legal in 44 states and easy to get anywhere. The six states banning the drug are Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Missouri. Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York are considering bans.

“You can order it online, and you can get it in magazines,” said Siegel. “Very easy to get.”

It’s not detected by drug-tests either.

“It’s like a dream come true for an addict,” Jason Schmider, a K2 drug user, said.

Schmider tried the drug more than 50 times until he wound up in the hospital, he said.

“That was the final straw,” he said.

Then, he found himself at drug treatment center called Phoenix House outside New York City.

Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to learn what’s in the drug itself. CBS News was granted rare access at a special testing facility near Washington, D.C.

‘They’ll market it as incense, or bath salts,” DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs said.

Tests are part of deciding whether spice and K2 should be a controlled substance, Boggs said.

“The fact that they’re legal really is almost irrelevant,” said Boggs. “People are just basically playing Russian roulette with these every time they take them.”

That’s a gamble that means months of rehab for Schmider.

“It was like the scariest moment of my life,” said Schmider. “It’s not worth it.”