In a watershed operation for law enforcement officials, police officers across the country arrested more than 90 people during the first-ever crackdown on synthetic drugs, according to a report from MSNBC.
In addition to the arrests of key criminals, the drug raids also allowed officers to seize $36 million in cash and nearly 5 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids, sources say.
Law enforcement officials also found raw materials capable of providing the ingredients for more than 13 million packages of synthetic cannabinoids, as well as 167,000 packages of synthetic hallucinogens, also known as bath salts.
The large series of raids, which was dubbed Operation Log Jam, represented a joint effort between the Drug Enforcement Administration, federal officials, and local police agencies, and spanned across 30 different states, according to sources.
During the operation, police raided 29 manufacturing facilities, including small-scale producers and large warehouses, in an effort to reduce synthetic drug crime.
In recent years, drug manufacturers have started producing complex synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of illegal substances. These synthetic drugs are harder for authorities to detect, and are often sold through legal outlets under the guise of lawful products.
Popular synthetic drugs include bath salts, K-2, Spice, and Vanilla Sky, and are explicitly marketed to young people who shop at places like smoke shops, according to sources.
Many of these drugs have warnings saying that they are not intended for human consumption, but this label simply serves as a code to consumers that the substances are synthetic drugs.
These synthetic drugs can be created in relatively small laboratories with limited staff, so it can be a real challenge for law enforcement officials to crack down on synthetic drug production.
The latest operation, however, allowed the DEA and other officials to locate people who have connections with some of the “more seasoned traffickers,” which means that Operation Log Jam could have broader benefits for the police.
In addition to leveling criminal charges against drug manufacturers, Operation Log Jam also allowed officers to start tracking the flow of money in the drug industry.
According to Richard Weber, the Chief of Criminal Investigation for the IRS, a major goal of the project was to “document the movement of money during the course of the crime” and “link between where the money comes from” and where it goes.
And thanks to the latest series of raids, federal investigators have gained leads on the major players in the synthetic drug industry.