News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 19, 2012

THPD seizes synthetics

Merchandise has been linked to recent overdoses, according to prosecutor

TERRE HAUTE — Local authorities made their case Wednesday for seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of alleged “look-a-like” drugs and alleged drug paraphernalia from three local businesses the day before.

Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt and Detective Steve Lockard of the Vigo County Drug Task Force displayed dozens of packets of products sold as “incense” or “potpourri” at a news conference at the Terre Haute Police Department.

The packets, with names such as “Mean Green Herb,” “Cloud 9,” “Funky Green Stuff” and “Mad Hatter,” were among about 10,000 packets – valued at from $10 to about $50 each – taken from The J Spot at 1200 Lafayette Ave., the Sun Mart at 4085 S. Seventh St. and the Super Station at 1257 Poplar St.

The businesses were selling the products along with pipes and other devices typically used for smoking marijuana, which is what gave local authorities the legal grounds on which to act, they said.

“If you sell [these products] and a pipe together, that makes this a ‘look-a-like drug and it makes the pipe paraphernalia,” Lockard told reporters.

Drug enforcement police seized more than $200,000 in pipes and other “smoking apparatus” from the three locations combined, Lockard said.

Calls were placed to all three businesses targeted in Tuesday’s raid; however, no one could be reached for comment.

Lockard said these products have been around for a while, but problems associated with them have “crept up on us in a hurry in the last four or five months.”

Several people have required medical treatment due to the effects of these products, Modesitt said. Local hospitals have reported “multiple overdoses on these synthetic drugs,” including two cases on back-to-back days, according to a news release issued by the prosecutor’s office Wednesday.

Starting last July, Indiana law banned synthetic drugs, such as K2 or “Spice.” However, manufacturers are able to make very small changes to their products to keep them technically legal, Lockard said.

The products seized Tuesday will need to be tested to see whether they contain illegal substances, authorities said. However, prior to the raid, some of the products sold by the businesses did test positive, Modesitt noted.

“We did find some illegal substances in some of these packets that we confiscated previously,” the prosecutor said.

While selling synthetic drugs is a class-D felony in Indiana, Modesitt said it is his hope that the business owners will sign agreements pledging not to sell the products in the future. If they sign, “it’s our plan to move on,” he said. If they continue to sell the products, they would face “the appropriate charges,” Modesitt said.

In addition to the three businesses targeted Tuesday, Lockard said there are others in the area believed to be selling the same products. They also will be targeted if they do not stop the sales, he said.

Packaging for the products do not contain a list of ingredients. Some state “Not for Human Consumption.” One stated that it’s proper use is limited to burning with sage, boiling in oil or placing holes in the packet and hanging it.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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