DENVER (CBS4) – Federal agents arrested more than 90 people and more than five million packets of finished designer synthetic drugs were seized in the first nationwide crackdown on designer synthetic drugs in U.S. history.
“Operation Log Jam” was executed in 90 cities in 30 states, including Colorado. It targeted synthetic forms of drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine.
The synthetics are marketed to young people under the names bath salts, spice, incense, and plant food. They’re often sold in tobacco shops, convenience stores, and even gas stations.
Recently President Obama signed a bill that bans the sale, production and possession of many of the chemicals found in some of the most popular synthetic drugs like bath salts and plant food.
Drug enforcement agents say the designer drugs are specifically marketed toward children. In Colorado designer drugs are now to blame for three people dying this year alone.
The packaging is creative. It looks like lip balm, even energy shots, but inside are dangerous chemicals causing hallucinations, seizures and even violent behavior.
“She told us that at one point, that the bugs were inside of her body coming out,” the mother of one victim said.
Denver’s Special Agent in Charge Barbara Roach says parents should beware because they are seeing an abundance of designer drugs in Colorado.
“A lot more of our kids are using. In a study last year they estimated the admission of one in nine high school students have used,” Roach said.
The retail on bath salts and spice products seized by local drug enforcement agents is worth more than $50,000. Agents say the Denver distributor behind it made a million dollars last year.
Bath salts in particular are making headlines. In Longmont on Monday police arrested Demian Weigle. Officers say he was using bath salts, became paranoid, believed his neighbor was spying on him, and set the neighbor’s house in fire.
In Miami another man allegedly high on the drug bit the face of a homeless man. In Grand Junction a teenager died several months ago. And in Florida stacks of boxes are among the millions of packets seized nationwide in Operation Log Jam.
DEA administrators have a message for its distributors.
“You are nothing more than a drug trafficker and we will bring you to justice,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said.
DEA agents say a packet might cost $1 to make this but it sells for $30. That kind of profit margin is a good reason why they are a growing drug class making law enforcement very concerned.