A massive seizure of illegal products widely known as ‘synthetic marijuana’ was executed on Thursday evening by the Grayson County Sheriff’s Department.
1,228 packets of the substance, which is sold in 1.5 gram servings, were taken from JC Cigarette Outlet on South Main Street in Leitchfield, according to Detective Jeff Kelsey. A “large amount” of cash was also seized.
The dangerous chemical-laced drugs, which are sold for about $15 a packet, carried a street value of approximately $18,420.
Sheriff Rick Clemons explained that informants had been sent into the store to purchase what was suspected of being an illegal substance and the items were sent to the state crime lab for testing.
Results, which were received by the Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, indicated that the bright green packets being marketed as ‘Green Giant’ did indeed contain illegal chemical compounds which are being used to induce a variety of potentially damaging effects. Packets being sold under the name AK-47 were also taken from the smoke shop and are awaiting testing.
According to Kelsey, the drugs, which may take various chemical forms and are called by a variety of names such as spice, bath salts, K2, or Mr. Smiley, induce states similar to those of someone who has taken substances like LSD or acid.
The packets are sold under the guise of being ‘aromatherapy’ items and are labeled ‘not for human consumption.’ Instructions on the bag will tell you to pour its contents into an open container or sachet for aromatherapy benefits and to seek medical attention if accidentally consumed; however, word of mouth is all that is needed to drive the sales of these mind-altering substances through the roof, according to the officers.
Clemons explained that the months-long investigation, which is still ongoing, has been fueled by desperate calls from parents and concerned community members who have seen the ravaging effects of these drugs, which he considers undeniably deadly.
He said that County Attorney Clay Ratley, who has also received a deluge of concerned calls about the issue, has lent a huge amount of support in the fight against synthetic marijuana as well.
Ratley bridged the topic at Friday’s Fiscal Court meeting, thanking them for their efforts in passing legislation making these drugs illegal in Grayson County even before state laws were passed.
“The Fiscal Court has been very progressive,” he said, adding that it was County-based movements like this that prompted the state into moving forward and realizing the importance of the issue.
Clemons said of the court’s involvement, “They’re to be commended for what they’ve done.”
Still, controlling this new generation of drugs becomes difficult for law enforcement officers like Clemons and Kelsey as well as prosecutors like Ratley because each time a substance is identified and outlawed, the manufacturers slightly alter the chemical compound and change the name before setting up new sales.
“This is new to us,” Kelsey said, explaining that when old products are cleared out, new ones just show up to replace them.
Recent legislation is taking a step toward controlling this problem by expanding the class of drugs outlawed in order to assist in prosecuting, however, a great deal of hard work will be necessary to cut off the practice.
Manufacturers of the leafy substance, which is laced with dangerous chemicals, also protect themselves by claiming that the items are not for human consumption and labeling them as such. This attempts to place all liability on the user.
Trafficking in synthetic marijuana is a misdemeanor, which is enhanced to a felony for the second conviction. Possession of the drug is also illegal.
No arrests have yet been made in connection with this seizure of the product, Clemons said, but forthcoming arrests are expected and the investigation is still continuing.
“Our main goal is just to get this off the street,” said Kelsey, who added that synthetic marijuana is just as significant of a concern as methamphetamines.
“If they’re going to sell it or possess it,” he said, “we’re going to let them know it’s illegal.”
Thursday’s search and seizure was carried out by Clemons, Kelsey, Chief Deputy Tony Willen, Deputies Buck Meredith and Bryan Hammons, and Special Deputies Mark Stanton and Pat Newton of the GCSD. They were assisted by Detective Kevin Smith and Officer Brandon Cook, of the Leitchfield Police Department, and Trooper Brad Riley with Kentucky State Police.