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Fake Weed – Spice – K2 Where are we now?

After several months of raids on the herbal incense spice industry many people from kids to mothers and parents of children using spice drugs all ask the same question. After all this where are we now?

The spice dealers are asking there chemists the same thing, it is a huge mess for all. Since i spend so much time and i get to see all the different angles of what this spice drug has done to so many i am writing from all angles.

One, when this herbal incense spice drug hit the streets no one had any idea of the long term effects from the drug. Retailers started to sell the spice drug under names like, K2 Spice, Herbal Incense, Mad Hatter, Mr Nice Guy, Cloud 9, Aroma spice, Jonny Clearwater, Scooby Snax, just to name a few. Since the DEA had no idea how this drug was being used the manufactures of the spice drug were able to get in to many gas stations around America.

As kids started to use the drug since it was not illegal and they are kids so they dont have a clue about the effects of drugs that they can buy at the local convince stores. It went crazy, they loved it and almost instantly were addicted to the high and the effects they felt from smoking the spice.

Now on the adult side, many long term adults that smoked weed for years and might now have a current job that drug tests them said Hey lets give it a shot. Many of users that were adults i spoke with said they were on probation and it gave them a new option. A way that they could still get that feeling that they have enjoyed for years from smoking pot with out the hash actions if they were to get caught by an employeer or law informent.

So the gas stations start to see large profits from the sale of the spice drug. Profits in the tens of thousands in just a weeks sales. As law makers learn more about the spice drug they drove to many places selling the spice to ask for them to pull it off the shelf. Well these small corner stores though out the United States are already making the largest profit they have seen in years. They are feeling like they might have a chance to get out of debt for the first time in years. They might make just enough to take that extra weekend get away they wanted for years but just could not afford to take due to they economy.

After a while of trying to get bills passed, congress passed the bill outlawing the UR144 chemical used to manufacture the spice drug. Well it was a little to late. At this point herbal spice was already used by millions across America. It had been legal for years with a lot of people that enjoyed it, were hooked on it, and made money selling it.

So what happens next? Well the store owners dont want to loose out on huge profits, and these clients that are coming into there store each week, several times a week to pick up there favorite blend of spice are not just buying spice. There at the store so there picking up soda, candy, and other items since there already there. So this is a total loss of business for these store owners now sales all across the board are going to go down.

Now you have this huge client base of users that are going to find a way to get there spice, remember there hooked they have been using it for some time now. You have the dealers that make the spice that have lined there pocket with millions of dollars in a horrible economy and they just got a nice life style.

The manufactures do what they know, they contact there chemist and demand that they make a small change in the DNA of the UR144 chemical. Now the drug dealers how do this for a living are one step ahead of law makers. Why might you ask?

I will tell you why, because the police and DEA have thousands of things to worry about, tons of drugs to deal with. The makers of herbal spice drug have one full time job. One single thing to focus on. How to get there product in front of as many clients as possible and make as much money as they can before the next ban of there current chemical.

They have passed new bills out lawing the spice drug. But the question is the same to all. Have we seen the last of it? I am here to tell you that we have not. One of two things is happening right now.
A new chemical will be used to produce spice drug and it will be back in stores by the end of the year.

Or worst it will go underground and dealers all over the world on the corner will be selling to anyone with a $5.00 bill.

Parents if you wonder if your kids are using spice, sit them down speak to them about the dangers of drugs. Get to know there friends and make sure you educate you kids.

More using fake pot products

Incense and potpourri products line shelves at a BP station in Brooksville on Monday. Use of the “fake pot” products is on the rise. Some manufacturers have altered ingredients to skirt bans.

Susan Casiglia started to notice disturbing changes in her son’s demeanor four months ago, about the same time he started bringing home colorful packages of potpourri and incense.

The packages warn that the contents are not for human consumption. But Casiglia said her son, looking for a high, smoked the products, which he purchased at a convenience store down the street in Brooksville.

On the verge of official adulthood, the teen developed a temper and was often agitated, Casiglia said. She pleaded with him to stop smoking.

“He says it’s legal, and what am I going to do?” she recalled.

When their confrontations became physical, Casiglia kicked him out and filed a restraining order.

The 48-year-old mother of three is convinced her son is a casualty of what many call “legal weed” or “designer pot” — herbs marketed as air freshener but laced with chemicals that, when smoked, mimic the high of marijuana.

Products with names such as Red Magic, Serenity and Blueberry Meditation, which hit the shelves of head shops a few years ago, can now be found in convenience stores for as little as $6.

Easily accessible and undetected in drug screenings, the products are popular with teens and adults alike, experts say.

But some people who smoke the products have begun showing up in emergency rooms suffering from agitation, paranoia, tremors, racing hearts, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, even psychotic episodes. And the number of reported poison cases in Pasco and Hernando counties is on the rise.

The trend has spurred action at every level of government.

On Wednesday, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration extended its temporary ban of five chemicals used in the products. States are creating their own laws, even as manufacturers alter the ingredients to try to skirt the bans.

The Florida Legislature is poised to pass a new law that adds compounds to the list of those already banned, and Hernando school officials are adding the products to their list of banned substances.

Vice detectives for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office are buying packages and sending them off to labs to be tested for illegal ingredients. And last week, Hernando deputies fanned out across the county to warn retailers that the products on their shelves might already contain illegal ingredients and that a host of other products will probably be outlawed soon, too.

The products can be purchased on the Internet, but Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis said he hopes the education campaign will make it more difficult for county residents — especially teens — to walk into a store and pay cash.

“It should concern these businesses that they could be doing some damage to their customers,” Nienhuis said. “We want to make sure we educate them so they cannot claim ignorance.”

• • •

Karen Arsenault wrinkled her nose Monday when Hernando Deputy Abraham Dowdell explained why he had come calling to Deep Blue Liquors.

“Our owners are highly, highly against that, so no worries here,” said Arsenault, a clerk at the store on County Line Road in Spring Hill.

By the end of last week, deputies had visited all of the 110 retailers on their list. Of those, 19 carried incense or potpourri products.

Several store owners and managers said they don’t carry the products because of health concerns and legal dangers. Some decided to take the products off the shelves before deputies left their stores.

Other retailers worried about losing money on inventory, said Hernando Sheriff’s Sgt. John Cameron. A Spring Hill liquor store owner who had just received a new shipment said she planned to sell the rest of it but would get rid of whatever she has left when the new law takes effect.

So far, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office’s random tests haven’t turned up any illegal substances, said spokesman Kevin Doll.

Synthetic cannabinoids were born in 1995 in a Clemson University laboratory, with medical research in mind. They are structurally different from tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but they have the same biological effects on the human body.

The compound was first disclosed in a research paper in 1998, and entrepreneurs apparently re-created the chemical for commercial sale.

In 2010, the DEA announced its intention to ban five synthetic compounds by characterizing them as Schedule I narcotics, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. The ban took effect last March.

The six-month extension issued last week gives the agency’s researchers more time to study the myriad compounds that crop up in various products and decide how to permanently schedule the drugs, said DEA spokesman Jeffrey Scott.

It’s a big challenge as manufacturers tweak chemical compounds and change the names of products, Scott said.

“It’s something of a game of whack-a-mole at the moment,” he said.

Most of the chemicals are imported from manufacturers in other countries, especially China, but underground labs in the United States increasingly are producing and synthesizing them. The DEA is investigating several large-scale importers and distributors, Scott said.

Florida’s law took effect last summer, making sale or possession of more than 3 grams of the compounds a third-degree felony. Possession of 3 grams or less is a misdemeanor.

Attorney General Pam Bondi advocated for the legislation pending this session that will add to the list of banned chemical compounds in fake pot and bath salts, another stealth drug.

Marijuana shows up in field tests, giving deputies probable cause for an arrest, but there isn’t yet a field test for synthetic pot. Authorities can write a report and send the material off to the lab for testing. If tests come back positive for the banned compounds, the State Attorney’s Office can elect to prosecute.

That hasn’t happened in Hernando yet, but it eventually will, said Assistant State Attorney Sonny McCathran.

Statistics indicate use of the products is on the rise, despite the bans.

The number of poison cases involving synthetic marijuana reported in Florida in 2010 doubled last year, to nearly 500, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

The numbers are increasing locally, too, with 23 reported cases in Pasco last year and six in Hernando. Health officials say many people don’t report adverse effects or tell emergency room staffers that they smoked the products, though, so the numbers could be much higher.

The synthetic compounds bind and “hijack” brain receptors involved in an array of critical body functions, such as memory, motor control and decision making, said Marilyn A. Huestis, chemistry and drug metabolism chief at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Some of the compounds are many times stronger than THC, and the negative effects appear to be greater, too, Huestis said. Because products are manufactured without regulation, they could contain toxic contaminants.

The longtime physical and psychological effects are unclear. As a researcher, Huestis gives drugs to volunteers to study their effects on the body. She won’t do the same with these products — and the Food and Drug Administration wouldn’t let her if she wanted to — because of how little is known about them, she said.

That means active users are, in effect, making themselves lab rats.

“They’re experimenting on themselves with very dangerous chemicals,” Huestis said.

• • •

One day in January, someone tipped off administrators at Powell Middle School in Spring Hill that a student had some fake pot in his bookbag.

The boy admitted he smoked it, said Cameron, the Hernando sheriff’s sergeant who also supervises school resource officers.

“He said it helps him relax,” Cameron said.

Last week, a Hernando High student was caught with fake pot he said he bought at a downtown Brooksville gas station. As of last week, there had been seven or eight synthetic marijuana cases this school year in Hernando County, said Ricardo Jaquez, the district’s lead substance abuse educator.

The products are not currently on the list of banned substances in the Hernando student code of conduct, but likely will be by next school year, Jaquez said. Students found in possession of the products are interviewed and typically referred for drug counseling.

The Pasco school district considers fake pot banned “look-alike substances,” a spokeswoman said.

Anti-drug activists applauded the effort to educate retailers.

“If they start feeling some pressure about this product, they might figure it’s just not worth it,” said Sandra Marrero, vice president of the Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition. “We already have enough problems with the drugs we have on the street.”

• • •

Last week, Susan Casiglia happened to walk into a Brooksville BP station not far from her apartment to find Deputy Dowdell talking to the woman behind the counter.

Flanking the woman were three display cases full of fake pot products: Cloud 9, Mad Hatter, Scooby Snax.

Most or all of it will probably be illegal soon, Dowdell told her. The woman, who turned out to be the owner and declined to give her name to a Times reporter, told Dowdell she was a single mom who worked hard to provide for her family, so she didn’t want any trouble.

As Casiglia waited in line, the owner started to stuff the packets and jars into a plastic bag. A few minutes later, the display cases sat empty.

“Thank God,” Casiglia said.

Pasco commissioners take new approach to ban ‘Spice’

DADE CITY — Calling their approach a unique way to combat synthetic marijuana and other drugs known as “Spice,” Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday gave initial approval to an ordinance targeting store owners based on the packaging and marketing of the drugs.

The ordinance would levy a $500 civil fine for each individual package of the drugs, which are openly sold at some convenience stores. Other brand names include “K2,” “Scooby Snax” or “Voodoo Child.”

Going after the drugs based on how they are sold — instead of their chemical components — could help deputies stay one step ahead of ever-changing substances designed to evade state and federal drug laws.

County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder called Pasco’s ordinance “probably the first of its kind here in the state of Florida.” It could receive final approval next month.

Sheriff Chris Nocco’s office began working with the county attorney’s office on the ordinance in June. He called it an innovative tool that other cities and counties would soon copy.

Even with the proposed new rules, Nocco acknowledged savvy teens could still get their fix, either online or through retailers who hide the drugs behind the counter.

But he said the proposal would remove the impression that synthetic drugs are a safe, legal alternative to marijuana or other drugs.

“Our biggest problem we had was teenagers who say, ‘Well I can buy it over the counter, what’s wrong with that?’ ” he said. “It puts an emphasis out there that this is an illegal product.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Chuck Balderstone added: “We don’t want to be known as that county where people can come and have Spice available to them.”

The ordinance makes it illegal to sell or possess such drugs. Deputies will be allowed to consider the total weight of several factors when determining if a substance is an “illicit synthetic drug.” The ordinance is broad regarding these factors, but it also seeks to exclude other legitimate products, like food, that are regulated by other agencies.

A red flag, for instance, could be a packet labeled as “potpourri” that is priced significantly higher than regular potpourri. Or it could be a label saying “not for human consumption” when the product is marketed as something that will get a person high. Another might be the lack of an ingredient list or a label saying the substance is not banned by state drug laws.

“Clearly this is a sham,” said Kristi Sims, the assistant county attorney who wrote the proposal. “It stretches credibility for somebody to believe that this tiny packet of potpourri is potpourri.”

Tuesday’s decision came as welcome news to Denise Szulis, a member of the Save Pasco group that raises awareness about the dangers of synthetic drugs. Her group has been protesting outside stores that sell such chemicals while also writing thank you letters to stores that don’t. Before the measure is adopted, she will push for a provision to make the $500 fine a minimum penalty, not a maximum.

“We want to make sure that is a stiff enough penalty that it’ll be enough of a deterrent to retailers,” she said.

The penalty could escalate quickly. If a store owner is caught with just 100 packets, he or she could be on the hook for $50,000. “This ordinance carries the potential for a fairly significant monetary fine,” Sims said.

The ordinance also seeks to curtail the display of drug paraphernalia such as bongs or pipes. Stores could no longer openly sell such items if they allow minors to enter without their parents. Stores would have to sell such paraphernalia in a separate room where minors cannot enter.

“Little children should not be brought up coming into a convenience store and seeing these pipes,” Nocco said.

The new measure still faces another public hearing, on Nov. 7 in Dade City, before a final vote.

Among Tampa Bay area counties, Pasco would be the first to adopt an anti-Spice ordinance. Pinellas introduced a proposal to create a committee that reviews new drugs as they come on the market and adds them to a list of banned substances. That effort has since stalled. Hillsborough commissioners directed their attorneys to begin writing an ordinance in July, but that proposal is not yet finished. Hernando is monitoring Pasco’s effort.

Sims said most of the local ordinances started in South Florida and have since migrated north. But those efforts all sought to specifically identify drugs based on their chemical composition. That is problematic because local officials are testing potentially harmful substances while the products remain on the shelves. It also puts a strain on local resources.

“As soon as the Legislature acts to put a chemical compound on a controlled list, then the chemical compound is tweaked just enough to not violate the state laws,” she said.

TROY, NY – The …

TROY, NY – The Rensselaer County Legislature approved a county law prohibiting the sale of the potentially dangerous substance known as bath salts at the October 9 legislative meeting, Legislators Harry Tutunjian and Hank Bauer announced.

Bath salts have been linked to several violent crimes and deadly incidents across the country. The county law would make it illegal for bath salts to be sold in the county by individuals, markets or even Internet companies.

The two lawmakers, who represent Troy, said the new local law will expand the ability of law enforcement to combat the sale, distribution and use of the drug. Rensselaer County is the latest in a series of counties and municipalities to pass a law banning the sale of bath salts.

Both Tutunjian and Bauer said they would still like to see the state draft and approve a more comprehensive law banning the sale of bath salts.

Bath salts are similar to powdered synthetic cocaine and produce an effect similar to a hallucinogenic. The white crystals bath salts resemble legal bathing and cleaning products like Epsom salts, and have packaging that attempt to avoid the prohibitions against illegal drugs.

Local police ‘bracing’ for bath salts in region

AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Chris Knight

Bath salts, in this case synthetic cocaine, are part of a new and highly dangerous generation of drugs that have begun to make an appearance locally.

If East Bridgewater Detective Michael Jenkins catches a suspect in town with the dangerous synthetic drug known as “bath salts,” he can’t criminally charge the person.

Jenkins said his only recourse is to cite the suspect with a misdemeanor under Massachusetts public health law, and issue a fine of $50 to $100.

This is despite a federal law signed by President Barack Obama on July 9 that outlaws synthetic drugs, including some chemicals found in bath salts.

“Our hands are kind of tied,” Jenkins said Monday. “Even though there’s a federal ban, state and local authorities have no jurisdiction over federal law. We’re not federal law enforcement officers.”

State lawmakers are hoping to change that.

For several months, lawmakers including state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, and state Rep. George Ross, R-Attleboro, have been pushing for a state ban of bath salts. Keenan said he wants to make bath salts illegal in Massachusetts to avoid any ambiguities that may arise from different interpretations of the federal law.

“We need the same course of action here at the state level, that it’s made clear that in Massachusetts these substances are banned, that they’re not on the shelves,” Keenan said.

The ban was tacked on to another Senate bill co-authored by Keenan to monitor prescriptions for opiate painkillers. Ross first sponsored the bill to make bath salts a controlled substance after several constituents approached him.

Ross and Keenan are among state lawmakers who hope the bill passes before the end of the legislative session tonight.

“It’s very important,” Ross said. “I had a lot of people backing me up on it, law enforcement, health officials, parents of kids who were addicted.”

Bath salts, which are synthetic psychoactive drugs, have grown tremendously in popularity in recent years, sold under names such as “Spice” or “Vanilla Sky” in head shops, smoke shops and convenience stores.

On Thursday, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced it had seized more than $36 million in cash and arrested 91 people in a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs including bath salts and fake marijuana. Five million packets of synthetic drugs were seized.

Jenkins said that without a state ban “it is almost impossible” to enforce the new federal law in Massachusetts, unless it’s a collaborative effort with federal authorities on larger drug cases.

And local police expect to see more of it.

“We’re kind of bracing ourselves for it. It’s almost like the calm before the storm,” said West Bridgewater police Sgt. Tim Nixon, also a member of the WEB Major Crimes and Drug Task Force.

The drugs are considered so dangerous that in December, Abington police charged a local man with attempted manslaughter for selling them.

Jenkins, of East Bridgewater police, also said the federal law is a good start, but it “will not dramatically curb use of bath salts.”

“These drugs are constantly changing and the manufacturers will make a small chemical alteration to their formulas and they won’t fall under the law,” Jenkins said.

The battle against bath salts

People are inventing so many new, legal ways to get high that lawmakers can’t keep up.

So law enforcers are taking new steps to target these synthetic drugs.

Those steps include coordinated raids. The latest was Wednesday, when federal agents arrested more than 90 people in a nationwide sweep of synthetic drug producers, distributors and retailers — including a number in Pennsylvania.

Across the country, agents seized more than five million packets of finished designer synthetic drugs, including substances marketed as bath salts, spice, incense, K-2 and plant food, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

They also recovered more than $36 million in cash in the sweep, code named Operation Log Jam.

“We struck a huge blow to the synthetic drug industry,” said James Chaparro, the acting director of the Office of Homeland Security Investigations. “The criminal organizations behind the importation, distribution and selling of these synthetic drugs have scant regard for human life in their reckless pursuit of illicit profits.”

In Pennsylvania, agents searched residences, convenience stores, gas stations, smoke shops and other similar businesses in several counties, including Montgomery and Philadelphia.

They seized more than 300,000 individual doses of synthetic marijuana and illegal bath salts, with an estimated street value of $1.25 million. They also recovered more than 50,000 pieces of drug paraphernalia related to the smoking or consumption of synthetic drugs and about $250,000 in cash and assets, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Over the past two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants.

The drugs are often sold at small, independent stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country.

Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as “bath salts,” though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law earlier this month that bans the sale, production and possession of more than two dozen of the most common bath salt drugs. But health professionals say that there are so many varieties of the drugs that U.S. lawmakers are always playing catch up.

“The moment you start to regulate one of them, they’ll come out with a variant that sometimes is even more potent,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Emergencies related to the drugs have surged: The American Association of Poison Control Centers received more than 6,100 calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 the year before — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

In Montgomery County, coroner Dr. Walter Hoffman said four deaths have been attributed to the use of bath salt drugs — including a 28-year-old man and 15-year-old girl from Pottstown who were killed in a motor vehicle accident. All four people who died from the drugs were under 30 years old, he said. Bucks County Coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell said that no deaths in Bucks County have been directly attributed to bath salt use.

A Quakertown father has attributed his son’s suicide to mental health problems following bath salt use. And authorities said an Upper Moreland teen was severely injured when he jumped from the top level of the Willow Grove Park mall parking garage after smoking an unidentified synthetic drug.

Many states have banned some of the most common bath salt drugs. For instance, in June 2011, Pennsylvania legislators banned the possession, use and sale of synthetic “designer” drugs.

But while U.S. laws prohibit the sale or possession of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, that’s only true if federal prosecutors can show they’re intended for human consumption. People who make these drugs work around this by printing “not for human consumption” on packets.

Despite the bans, bath salts producers are constantly tweaking their recipes to come up with new drugs that aren’t covered by state or federal laws. In fact, Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, says there are so many different drugs out there that it’s almost impossible to know what people have ingested, or how long the effects will last.

“Cocaine is cocaine and meth is meth. We know what these things do,” he said. “But with these new drugs, every time the chemist alters the chemical structure, all bets are off.”

These drugs include synthetic marijuana substitutes, also known as “herbal incense.”

At one Doylestown store, the packages were marked “not for human consumption.” When the owner was asked if she knew people smoked the product, she said she doesn’t know anything about what customers do with it.

A man leaving the store with a vial of the synthetic “incense” in his hand said he smokes it because he’s on probation for a DUI charge.

“Before (my DUI), I would not have tried any of this stuff,” said the man, who asked that he not be identified. “Even switching over to this stuff now that I can’t smoke weed is demeaning to me.”

The most common bath salt drugs, like MDPV and mephedrone, were first developed in pharmaceutical research laboratories, though they were never approved for medical use. During the last decade, they became popular as party drugs in Europe. As law enforcement began cracking down on the problem there, the drugs spread across the Atlantic Ocean.

The most dangerous synthetic drugs are stimulants that affect levels of both dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that affect mood and perception. Users, who typically smoke or snort the powder-based drugs, may experience a surge in energy, fever and delusions of invincibility.

Hospital emergency rooms, doctors and law enforcement agencies across the country have struggled to control bath salt drug users who often are feverish and paranoid. Hospitals in Bucks and Montgomery counties said they’ve had cases of suspected bath salts abuse, but they aren’t tracked separately from other drug overdoses.



Police raid Duluth store in national drug sweep

DULUTH – Spilling out of a city bus Wednesday morning, a cadre of federal agents and Duluth police officers raced into the Last Place on Earth with guns drawn, ordering everyone face down onto the floor.

“I was terrified to have a gun pointed at my face,” said Cynthia Peterson, 20, who had come to the head shop with her fiancé and a friend of his who intended to buy synthetic marijuana sold as “herbal incense.”

The raid, the second on the Duluth establishment in less than a year, was part of a nationwide federal crackdown Wednesday on dealers in what health experts consider the latest illegal drug epidemic: man-made chemicals designed to mimic marijuana, ecstasy and other illegal drugs. Sold online and in stores as “incense,” “bath salts,” “plant food” and other innocuous-sounding products, synthetic or designer drugs have generated thousands of calls to poison control centers and have been linked to more than 20 deaths in the United States, including two in Minnesota.

Michele Leonhart, an administrator with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), scheduled a news briefing for Thursday to announce “Operation Log Jam,” a “takedown” of synthetic-drug dealers in 100 cities across the country. Duluth’s raid apparently was the only one in Minnesota.

DEA raids also were reported to have occurred Wednesday in New York, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Jeanne Cooney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Minneapolis, said most of the raids targeted dealers, whereas agents in Duluth only seized evidence.

“We are executing search warrants in connection to an ongoing investigation,” Cooney said. “We are not at this time making any arrests or filing charges.”

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, in a ceremony scheduled for Thursday morning, is expected to sign a bill that will make it a felony to sell synthetic drugs. The law takes effect Aug. 1.

Jim Carlson, owner of the Duluth head shop, was on a fishing trip to Alaska on Wednesday, according to his girlfriend and business partner, Lava Haugen.

She said the officers presented a warrant and seized at least $20,000 worth of herbal incense, and files, invoices and other business records as well as a number of guns Carlson kept at the store. Officers also identified and searched customers, arresting at least two for outstanding warrants.

Peterson said those arrested included her fiancé, Phillip White, who was sought by Benton County authorities for allegedly violating terms of probation.

Haugen said police closed the store for at least several hours while conducting the raid.

Minnesota outlawed many of the chemicals in synthetic drugs last year. Carlson, of Superior, Wis., was one of the few dealers in the state who continued to sell them, saying he switched to products with different formulas that might not be covered by the law.

He said in a 2011 interview that his store was on pace to sell $6 million in synthetic marijuana and stimulants that year. Asked Wednesday whether sales had met that expectation, Haugen said: “Yes, sales have been just as good, if not more so.”

Duluth police raided Carlson’s store in September, seizing what he said was $50,000 worth of herbal incense, thousands of dollars in cash, his computer, cellphone and 31 guns.

No charges were filed after that raid, however. Jon Holets, an assistant St. Louis County attorney, said that’s because local authorities learned of the federal investigation and decided to “collaborate” with federal authorities rather than prosecute Carlson under state laws.

Carlson’s attorney, Randall Tigue, said that he had yet to see the search warrant for Wednesday’s raid but was puzzled about its legal basis because new federal synthetic drug regulations don’t take effect until October.

Tigue said he’s prepared to fight any charges by arguing that the substances are banned based on how the human brain reacts to them.

“Defining criminality by a reaction within the brain makes it a thought crime, and prosecuting someone for that would violate the First Amendment,” Tigue said, adding that if Carlson isn’t charged in connection with last year’s raid, he might sue for the return of the incense.

“What this raid tells me is that the first raid didn’t yield anything they could charge him with,” Tigue said.

Haugen, who notified Carlson of the raid, predicted that they’ll simply reorder products and restock shelves, as they did after the last raid. “I’m sure we’re going to reopen and keep doing what we were doing,” she said.

While some customers, including Peterson, said the raid amounted to nothing more than “hassling people,” Dean Baltes, owner and publisher of Shel/Don Design & Imaging, a shop next door, said he was thrilled to see it.

For more than a year, Baltes and owners of other nearby businesses have complained that Carlson’s synthetic drugs have attracted an unsavory and sometimes strung-out clientele that intimidates and disgusts visitors to Duluth’s “Old Downtown.”



“My partner, who is a CPA, calculated that it costs us $2,000 a day in walk-in trade,” Baltes said as he watched the raid from across the street. “People don’t want to deal with the violence, or the vomit in our doorway. I didn’t expect this, and I’m extremely glad it’s happening. I hope it sticks.”

Troopers visit 3,500 stores in K2 drug checks

The Michigan State Police announced Thursday that troopers have visited more than 3,500 retail stores statewide since late June in an effort to raise awareness that it is illegal to buy, sell or possess K2 or other synthetic drugs.

Although most retailers were in compliance with the law, approximately 140 cases across the state are pending further investigation, according to a news release.

In one case, a detective received a tip about synthetic drugs being sold at a retail store in Menominee County, the release said. Four employees were arrested, and nearly 600 packets of synthetic drugs were confiscated.

In another instance, an employee of a retail store in Crawford County proactively called a state police narcotics team to turn over a quantity of synthetic drugs being sold after the law had taken effect.

Despite state and federal bans that took effect this month, the drugs — often marketed as herbal incense or bath salts that mimic highs from cocaine, marijuana and LSD — remain available in some convenience stores, smoke shops and online, according to authorities.

On Wednesday, police and federal agents raided dozens of businesses suspected of selling synthetic drugs in nearly 100 cities during the first nationwide crackdown. The Detroit DEA was not part of that, officials said.

“There is nothing OK, legal or safe about synthetic drugs like K2, and the Michigan State Police is taking a zero tolerance approach to enforcement,” Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police, said in a release. “While those who choose to break the law can expect enforcement action, we are pleased to report that the majority of businesses are true partners in this effort and chose to comply voluntarily.”

Police make local bath salts bust

VERONA TOWNSHIP — The Huron County Sheriff’s Office along with the Bad Axe Police Department made a large, bath salts-related drug bust on Joyce Drive on Tuesday afternoon.

After serving a search warrant, authorities entered the residence to find three individuals present, with one appearing to be in the process of injecting a substance into their arm.

Used, new and loaded syringes were reported to be strewn across the entire residence.

Through the course of about four and a half hours, nearly 50 grams of bath salts were confiscated along with about 15 syringes that were loaded with an unknown substance. Authorities believe the syringes contain a bath salt solution.

Also found in the bust were prescription drugs, possible morphine, K2 and other unknown pills, along with nearly $1,000 in cash.

The current street value of bath salts is ranging from $40 a gram to as much as $80 a gram. This value is roughly double what bath salts cost before being recently deemed illegal.

The search warrant was the result of a lengthy investigation initiated in a cooperative effort between both police departments. Some cooperation from the occupants was received and the investigation will continue.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” said Huron County Sheriff Kelly Hanson. “We receive tips on almost a daily basis, but it makes it difficult when the tipster doesn’t really want to get involved.”

While the bust is believed to be of a large dealer in the area, officials said the bath salts issue will continue to be an problem.

“By no means has the bath salts problem come to an end,” Hanson said.

The sheriff’s office has been in communication with the Huron County Prosecutor’s Office and been discussing options on criminal charges.

Huron Central Ambulance also assisted at the scene.
Authorities encourage anyone with tips on illegal drug activity to contact the sheriff’s office at 989-269-6500 during regular business hours or Huron Central Dispatch at 989-269-6421 anytime. There is also a confidential tips line at 989-269-2861.