Not long after Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced a crackdown on synthetic marijuana in that county, federal agents and Pasco County deputies raided a synthetic marijuana laboratory in neighboring Pasco County. Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco alleges the laboratory was shipping products throughout the country.
The Pasco raid was part of a national investigation headed up by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) focusing on the synthetic drug industry. A search of the business, located at 4339 Buena Vista Lane, west of U.S. 19 in Holiday, yielded 440 pounds of materials. Authorities seized more than 100,000 packages of a drug described as synthetic marijuana, also known as “Spice.”
The sheriff alleges the business was buying drug components from China, then spraying those materials with chemicals and packaging them for sale. Many components of synthetic marijuana are banned by state and/or federal law. As specific chemical components are outlawed, makers of the synthetic substances often avoid prosecution by using alternate chemicals.
The Sheriff’s Office said it believes the materials seized in Pasco County this week are illegal ones. The substances have been packaged and forwarded to a laboratory for testing. No arrests have yet been made, pending the results of that testing.
The same day as the Pasco County raid, federal and local Hillsborough County law enforcement seized millions of dollars worth of synthetic marijuana from three Tampa warehouses.
A new law covering some of these synthetic substances became effective on July 1st in Florida. The new law follows several highly-publicized tragedies involving synthetic pot which many claim can cause a powerful high accompanied by vomiting, panic attacks and hallucinations.
Anyone charged with crimes involving any of these synthetic drugs face either a first-degree misdemeanor, third-degree felony or second-degree felony, depending on the exact crime. If charged with possession of certain synthetic cannabinoids, an individual could be convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree, facing a jail sentence up to one year and/or a fine up to $1,000.