Nationwide Synthetic Drug Takedown
July 26 (El Paso, Texas) - Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles and El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen announced the results of El Paso’s participation in nationwide Operation Log Jam .
On July 25, 2012, more than 90 individuals were arrested and more than five million packets of finished designer synthetic drugs were seized across the country in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food. More than $36 million in cash was also seized.
Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the DEA and numerous other federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities in more than 109 U.S. cities. The operation targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers.
For its part in Operation Log Jam, DEA’s El Paso Division, along with its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, executed a total of forty-nine federal and state search warrants at retailers and other locations, including six stores that also served as processing and packaging sites. Thirteen of the total forty-nine search warrants were executed in El Paso, and thirty-six were executed throughout New Mexico in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Roswell, and Alamogordo.
As a result of these search warrants, over 72,500 packages of synthetic drugs were seized. Specifically, in El Paso, over 6,800 packets of Spice and thirty-one containers of Bath Salts were seized. In New Mexico, over 56,000 packets of Spice and over 9,000 containers of Bath Salts were seized. Also seized were approximately fifty pounds in raw chemicals, one hundred fifty pounds of unpackaged bulk Spice, and over three hundred fifty pounds of untreated plant material, as well as approximately $360,000 in cash and bank accounts, thirteen firearms and six vehicles.
In addition to these seizures, fourteen persons were arrested, including four in El Paso and ten in New Mexico. There remains one fugitive from the operation in this region, and additional arrests are expected in the near future.
“The abuse of dangerous synthetic drugs has become a nationwide concern. By taking these harmful, illegal products off the shelves, DEA and our law enforcement partners continue to work together to protect our communities, especially our young people,” said Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration-El Paso Division.
“On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Border Crime Initiative, in a joint investigation with DEA and supported by numerous local, state and federal agencies executed several search warrants in El Paso. The 12 search warrants were for Spice and Bath Salts being sold at local businesses. The 5 arrest warrants were a result of the search warrants executed in December of 2011, that showed illegal substances in the Spice and Bath Salts,” said El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles.
"Rather than wait for El Pasoans to see the problems these "salts" have caused in other communities, the EPPD is happy to be part of this collaborative effort to confront this problem before it has a chance to grow," said El Paso Police Department Chief Greg Allen
Over the past several years, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe.
These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols that have been set up by employers and government agencies to protect public safety. They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have also become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Just as with the synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.
While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.
DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called bath salts like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.
In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic “Spice” and “bath salts.” In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger.
Operation Log Jam was conducted in the El Paso area with the participation of DEA, the El Paso Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the Anthony Police Department, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Texas Department of Public Safety, United States Customs and Border Protection, United States Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations/ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Army/Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Bliss, the DEA South Central Laboratory, the Texas State Crime Laboratory, the District Attorney’s Office for the 34 th Judicial District/El Paso, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
In New Mexico, the operation was conducted with the participation of DEA, the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Los Lunas Police Department, the Las Cruces Police Department, Las Cruces Metro Narcotics Task Force, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, the Roswell Police Department, the Alamogordo Department of Public safety, the Alamogordo Narcotics Enforcement Unit, the Otero County Sheriff’s Office, the Hatch Police Department, the Sunland Park Police Department, the New Mexico State Police, the New Mexico Motor Transportation Police, New Mexico State University Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations/ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office/Doña Ana County, the Twelfth Judicial District Attorney’s Office/Otero County, and the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office/Chaves County.