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Synthetic drugs in Louisiana

An operation to round up sellers of fake marijuana, including arrests in 35 states by the DEA, nabbed 11 in Louisiana. The drugs are sold in retail outlets under names like “Spice” and “K-2”. At one time these were legal, because the active ingredients they contain were not on the federal registry of controlled substances. Manufacturers would buy the chemicals from China or elsewhere and spray them onto to “vegetable matter” – dried leaves and stems of legal plants. This would then be packaged up in a fancy foil pouch with a colorful, sometimes witty name designed to appeal to younger purchasers.

Arrests in Louisiana came in Terrebonne Parish, including ten search warrants. According to The Times-Picayune, Special Agent Roberto Bryan of the DEA said, “We executed 10 search warrants, three at businesses and seven at residences. We seized a large quantity of synthetic marijuana, $500,000 to $600,000 in cash and four vehicles."

From the buyers side of the equation, purchasing synthetic marijuana is attractive because the drugs do not show up on urine tests and those who are working might wish to avoid detection. What’s harder to explain is why someone running a retail business would be interested in selling the items. It seem foolish to risk you retail business just to pick up a few extra bucks.

Perhaps, now that the DEA has stepped in with such a broad sweep, other businesspeople will get the message and stop carrying the products, which have been linked to bizarre reactions in users, and even a few deaths. By making it clear that not only are products (like the euphonious “Scooby Snax”) illegal, but that they also bring the attention of federal agents, the hope is that the market will dry up. There have been no reports of outright addiction, so it may be just a matter of removing the convenience from the equation and letting market forces work.

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