Synthetic Drug Sweep


They’ve been illegal for awhile, and business have no excuse to keep selling them. But the arrests tell a tale: synthetic drugs, sold as bath salts or incense, are too profitable to give up. A nationwide sweep may change the landscape.

Once legal to sell, a DEA emergency ruling put most popular synthetic drugs firmly into the illegal category. Last week they arrested at least 90 people and seized almost 5 million packets of these products. Also taken as illegal procedes, was $36 million in cash.

The numbers alone tell how huge the problem is. And manufacturers were geared up to keep the supply coming. The DEA seized enough material to make a further 13.6 million packages.

The DEA press conference (video) told a tale of manufacturers (29 of them) and retailers who simply don’t care that the synthetics can cause harm. They believed they were operating in a loophole in the law, even after the ban went into place.

One advantage on the enforcement side is that, because they were recently legal to sell, the dealers and suppliers were still exposed. They had no reason to hide until the ban went into place. Another boon for enforcement is that this “all at once” sweep will likely cripple the US-based manufacturers for good. There’s no point in starting up again as long as the synthetics remain illegal. Any supply now would have to come from outside the country and use smuggling techniques previously reserved for “hard” drugs.

Hopefully, the money simply won’t be there to regenerate interest. Since the drugs in question are complex molecules, we won’t see an emergence of “home labs” like we did for methamphetamine. Perhaps this incident will end up a solid win for the DEA.

The only downside is that the people arrested aren’t your typical dyed-in-the-wool drug dealers. For the most part, they are entrepreneurs who thought they could slip through the cracks in the law. That also comes with an upside too. This is the kind of offender who is likely to learn a lesson and stay away in the future.


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