Northeast Times

Breaking news: Synthetic pot seized by agents

Syn­thet­ic marijuana was seized from two North­east Phil­adelphia stores yes­ter­day and today as part of a statewide law-en­force­ment sweep called “Op­er­a­tion Ar­ti­fi­cial High.”

“The moth­er lode” of syn­thet­ic marijuana, il­leg­al in Pennsylvania since last Au­gust, was found in a smoke shop on the 10000 block of Ver­ree Road this morn­ing, said Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Kate Gib­son. Boxes and boxes of the stuff that re­tails un­der such names as Kush, K2, Spice, Herb­al Smoke and Cloud Nine were seized.

No one was ar­res­ted — yet — Gib­son said in a phone in­ter­view early Thursday af­ter­noon, but one ar­rest is likely today.

A gas sta­tion at 9100 Frank­ford Ave. was raided yes­ter­day. Drug paraphernalia was seized there, Gib­son said. In­vest­ig­at­ors had been mak­ing buys from a clerk at that loc­a­tion since May, she said, adding that the man even went to Grant Av­en­ue and Academy Road to make de­liv­er­ies of syn­thet­ic marijuana to state agents.

Five oth­er loc­a­tions in Phil­adelphia — all of them along South Street — were hit by nar­cot­ics agents and state troop­ers yes­ter­day and today, Gib­son said.

More than 50 search war­rants were ex­ecuted statewide dur­ing the crack­down on traf­fick­ing and sale of syn­thet­ic drugs, res­ult­ing in the seizure of more than 300,000 in­di­vidu­al doses of syn­thet­ic marijuana and il­leg­al bath salts with an es­tim­ated street value of $1.25 mil­lion.

More than 50,000 pieces of drug paraphernalia re­lated to smoking or con­sum­ing syn­thet­ic drugs were seized along with about $250,000 in cash and as­sets, the at­tor­ney gen­er­al’s of­fice said.

Gib­son be­lieves that the Ver­ree Road store might have been sup­ply­ing the South Street loc­a­tions.

Search war­rants were served in res­id­ences, con­veni­ence stores, gas sta­tions, smoke shops and sim­il­ar busi­nesses in the city and in Al­legheny, Le­high, Luzerne, Mont­gomery, Northamp­ton, Wash­ing­ton and West­mo­re­land counties, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Linda Kelly and State Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Frank Noon­an.

“These man-made chem­ic­als have triggered a wave of bizarre and vi­ol­ent re­ac­tions, med­ic­al emer­gen­cies and deaths across the coun­try since they began ap­pear­ing on the street in 2009,” Kelly said.

Agents and troop­ers made a series of un­der­cov­er pur­chases, re­cor­ded trans­ac­tions and sur­veil­lance to identi­fy many of the people and busi­nesses al­legedly in­volved in the dis­tri­bu­tion and sale of the il­leg­al syn­thet­ic drugs.

“These sub­stances were pro­hib­ited be­cause they are a threat to the health and safety of our com­munit­ies,” Kelly said. “This ban can­not be skir­ted by rebrand­ing these haz­ard­ous drugs as ‘win­dow clean­er,’ ‘plant food,’ ‘in­cense,’ ‘not for hu­man con­sump­tion’ or by mov­ing them be­hind the counter.”

In Phil­adelphia, the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s Bur­eau of Nar­cot­ic In­vest­ig­a­tion and Drug Strike Force pro­grams, the state po­lice, Phil­adelphia po­lice and the Phil­adelphia dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice were among the agen­cies in­volved in the op­er­a­tion.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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