Nearly $500,000 worth of synthetic drugs were seized from two retail establishments in the Carlisle borough on Friday.
Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed announced the seizure at a press conference on Tuesday, stating that the drugs were confiscated from the N.S. Deli in the first block of West Willow Street and Deli Creations on West Louther Street.
“What you see before you,” Freed said, motioning to the two tables heaped with packages of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, “is the result of an investigation going back several months involving the use of confidential informants and controlled purchases of mostly synthetic marijuana, but also bath salts, from two retail establishments in the borough of Carlisle.”
During the joint investigation with the Carlisle Police Department, Cumberland County Drug Task Force and Pennsylvania State Police, undercover officers purchased several packets of the drugs, which were then sent to the state police lab, where the packets tested positive for chemicals that were banned in June 2011.
“The undercover operations and the controlled purchases led to the drafting and approval of a search warrant,” Freed said. “That search warrant was executed on Friday, July 6, and as a result of that search warrant, police seized in excess of 20,000 doses of synthetic marijuana and baths salts from those locations. The bulk of what was seized in synthetic marijuana.”
According to Freed, 15,000 doses came from N.S. Deli and 5,000 doses came from Deli Creations with a retail value of more than $500,000.
“This problem unfortunately is one that is growing not just here, but also throughout this commonwealth,” he said. “Law enforcement responded to the proliferation of bath salts and marijuana last summer, and a law was passed by the legislature and passed into law by the governor banning certain formulations of bath salts and synthetic marijuana, essentially making them a controlled substance and making them subject to our criminal penalties in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Because the substances are relatively new, Freed said this was the biggest synthetic operation in the county.
Carlisle Police Chief Stephen Margeson complimented the officers and detectives who put in the time to make the case.
“These substances have been illegal since last summer, but they were still being obtained, used and abused by people in our community,” he said. “It was a multi-agency operation with excellent cooperation by all involved.”
While the drugs were not on display in the stores, they were easily accessible to a clerk who could sell them to anyone, Margeson said.
Some of the retail names on the packets of the drugs included Cloud 9, Barely Legal, Scooby Snacks, Atomic Afterlife, California Dream and Comatose Candy.
“Parents, if you see a wrapper like this around your house, it is not innocent stuff,” said Freed. “The most frightening thing is we don’t know what the effects are going to be because they are purely man-made. Some of these packages say ‘Not Fit For Human Consumption.’ Retailers can choose to engage in that fantasy if they want to, but we are not going to.”
Freed said these substances pose several dangers for law enforcement, as it is uncertain what the reaction to a person might be.
“The particular danger for us in law enforcement with these types of substances is frankly two-fold,” he said. “They are very, very easily accessible to not only adults but to younger people, teenagers, who can walk into N.S. Deli or Deli Creations, and if they know what to ask for, can get their hands on this. That danger is then magnified by the fact that no one knows what the effect of ingesting these substances will be. We have a pretty good idea as experienced law enforcement officials, what the effects of heroin or cocaine or marijuana would be on someone who takes it, and also frankly when we get that person in our hands how to help that person detox. We have seen reactions all over the board from these sorts of substances (synthetics).”
Freed spoke about the recent news reports of bath salts and synthetics incidents around the country and said that it is a major concern in the area.
“I have an incident that I talk about often where a mother of a teenager in Mechanicsburg called me and told me a story about a her teenage son after ingesting synthetic marijuana — he was tearing up the house and all they could do was get out of the house and wait until he was done,” he said. “There was nothing else they could do.”
Because of incidents such as this, he said it is a priority to get these drugs off the streets.
“This is big business, make no mistake,” Freed said. “This is a large investment by these businesses in illegal activity, and that is something that needs to be addressed in this community.”
When asked about the quantity of the drugs seized and if that indicates the amount of addiction in the community, Freed replied, “I don’t know if addiction is the right word, but it certainly speaks to the demand. There is certainly a demand, because it is the easiest thing to get your hands on. You don’t have to know a drug dealer. You can go to an otherwise legitimate business and get your hands on them.”
While charges have yet to be filed, Freed said criminal proceedings are in the works.
“We have not decided yet after this seizure who will be charged,” Freed said. “The potential jeopardy is there for the clerks who sold these substances but also for the owners of these establishments. Not only is there potential criminal jeopardy for these people, there is also the jeopardy of having their assets seized under our drug forfeiture laws. We have not made a final determination on that, but it is certainly on the table.”
Margeson said there is still further work to be done to evaluate who will be charged, what they will be charged with, and what the repercussions might be, but that 20,000 doses of the drugs are now off the borough streets.
The surveillance systems of the businesses were also subpoenaed and can be used as evidence of the sale of the drugs, according to Freed.
“When we file those charges, we want to make sure that we have all the records to tie their responsibility to it,” he said.