Photo: Government of New Jersey
The Drug Enforcement Administration raided several locations in Central Indiana today that were distributing synthetic drugs such as “bath salts” and synthetic cannabinoids.
The raids are part of a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs that the DEA initiated over the past two days.
“These designer synthetic drugs are causing all sorts of pain and misery to our youth,” DEA Special Agent in Indianapolis Dennis Wichern says. “Across the U.S. in the last several years we’ve had a number of overdose deaths, significant organ damage and all sorts of other like-kind issues caused by this designer synthetic drugs.”
Wichern declined to provide additional details on the Indiana cases specifically, citing an ongoing investigation.
Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who has authored several pieces of legislation tightening penalties for selling or possessing synthetic drugs, is praising the efforts.
“This is really what has to happen to get a handle and get on top of this synthetic drug epidemic across the country,” Merritt says, adding that the state’s laws make it easier for local law enforcement to conduct raids like the DEA’s.
The most recent version of Merritt’s law bans “look-alikes,” anything that’s substantially similar to the banned drugs but does not necessarily contain anything on the state’s list of banned compounds.
“For some reason it’s like whack-a-mole. You hit it here and it pops up there. We can hope for the best and expect something less,” Meritt says. “But I do believe our state law does enable agencies to cover our state in a more quality manner.”
Indiana’s current law on synthetics is being challenged in court, but Merritt says he is confident it is constitutional. He also plans to reintroduce legislation next session that would make the penalties for synthetic drugs the same as the drugs they are imitating.
Nationally, the DEA arrested more than 150 people in the raids and seized more than $20 million in cash and assets in 29 states.
As NPR reports the DEA used hundreds of warrants to target the supply and sales network of the synthetic drugs:
DEA investigators say hundreds of millions of dollars in drug profits are being routed to countries such as Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
“The money is going there, where it stops we don’t know,” the DEA’s Special Operations Division staff coordinator Ferdinand Large tells the AP.
The agency is “broadly focused on Chinese chemical manufacturers and the distributors, wholesalers and retailers” here in the U.S., the AP says, citing Large. Today’s activities were reportedly limited to U.S. targets.
The Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and other federal, state, and local partners were also involved in the raids.