DEA NEWS: Nationwide Synthetic Drug Takedown
July 26 (HOUSTON, Texas) – Six individuals were arrested and over 302,000 packets of cannabinoids were seized in Houston, McAllen, Brownsville, Austin and Waco during the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry. Specifically targeted in this operation were those entities responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food.
Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members in more than 20 cities and towns throughout Texas and targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers.
“Although tremendous progress has been made in legislating and scheduling these dangerous substances, this enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we are committed to targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative, and investigative tool at our disposal.”
In the Greater Houston area, law enforcement officials executed 10 search warrants, conducted three consent searches and seized 250,184 packages of synthetic cannabinoids, in excess of $800,000.00 in U.S. Currency, eight vehicles, 155.15 kilograms of treated plant material and 968.18 kilograms of untreated plant material.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier Peña of the Houston Division stated “DEA is strongly committed to the fight against bath salts and other synthetic drugs. We will aggressively pursue those who believe that designer drugs can be manufactured and sold illegally in Houston without detection or consequences, and those who are engaged in these activities can expect our combined law enforcement actions to continue.”
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 designed to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and episodes of violent behavior. 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. Although they are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration 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; in many cases, however, 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 in order 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) nevertheless 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 also 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.
Evidence of the dangerousness and potential hazards of these substances continues to mount. 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.
For more information about this operation and synthetic designer drugs, visit www.dea.gov.