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Federal Synthetic Drug Raids Today: a Lesson in What’s Legal in Texas May Be Illegal to the Feds

This morning, federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) surprised people all over the country as the DEA raided synthetic drug makers in 29 different states. This nationwide raid happened on the heels of a week-long run on emergency rooms here in Dallas and in Austin where over one-hundred (100) overdoses were treated after people got a hold of a bad batch of synthetic marijuana.

The overdoses were serious; thankfully, no one died from taking the batch of synthetic marijuana here in Texas. Not sure what “synthetic marijuana” is? You may recognize the drug by its more common nicknames like Scooby Snax, Molly, Spice, K2, Bliss, Blaze, Genie, Zohai, or Yucatan Fire. New, clever slang terms for fake pot are being created all the time.

What is Synthetic Marijuana?

In essence, synthetic marijuana or fake pot are products being sold on the streets as a way to get high while avoiding criminal liability if you were to get caught by law enforcement with the product in your possession. That’s the goal, anyway.

Synthetic marijuana isn’t the same; there are as many different recipes for fake pot these days as there are for chocolate chip cookies. Chemists develop different kinds of synthetic marijuana, and their success depends upon their version of fake marijuana to provide some kind of mind-altering result or intoxication level in the human body while remaining outside of what the law currently defines as being illegal.

Sure, the Texas Legislature tries to keep up.  State laws are passed to combat these recipes; which means that manufacturers work hard to stay one step ahead of the system with new and different recipes that remain outside of the statutory prohibitions.

For specific details on synthetic marijuana, including the Texas statutes dealing with designer drugs, check out our resources section on this drug, “Synthetic Marijuana (Fake Weed) is Illegal in Texas but It’s Still Being Sold: Are There Defenses to K-2, Spice, or Fake Weed Incense Under Texas Law? Yes.”)


Bad Batch of K2 Causes 120 Overdose Cases over 5 Days in Dallas and Austin

Problem is, state laws are one thing and federal laws are another. This week, here in Texas, a bad batch of fake pot apparently flowed through a distribution channel from its manufacturer here in Dallas to customers both here in Dallas and in Austin, a town some four-hours away if you drive down US-35 South at a somewhat normal speed.

The particular brand of synthetic marijuana that caused all this calamity was labeled K2 and there are rumors that the batch may have been laced with something in order to make it more tantalizing for those looking for a strong high.

No one knows for sure how many people may have suffered bad effects from this batch of K2 and obviously there wasn’t any kind of “recall” notice like those issued by standard drug manufacturers when a dangerous product has been sent into the marketplace by their factories.

What is known is that in a mere 5 day stretch, between the two Texas cities, 120 people were treated in local emergency rooms for K2 drug overdoses which included symptoms like psychotic states and strange, abnormal behavior which in some cases was so serious that the doctors had to sedate the patients before they could help them deal with the aftermath of taking this version of K2.

Federal Round-Up of Synthetic Marijuana Manufacturers

All these people showing up in the Dallas and Austin emergency rooms apparently served as the incentive that the DEA needed to orchestrate a massive raid on synthetic drug manufacturers and suppliers across the country. Hundreds of DEA agents were coordinated in raids taking place in over half of all the states (29) after hundreds of search warrants were obtained from assorted federal judges.

Which may give many people pause right now, because the big deal about synthetic marijuana is that it’s supposed to keep the government from doing exactly this sort of thing. The recipes for these products are designed to avoid the legal definition of illegal drugs, keeping them from the reach of law enforcement.

So imagine the shock experienced by the 150 people who were arrested in the DEA raids today. According to the DEA, the federal raids turned up over $20 Million in cash and other property as well as hundreds of kilos of raw K2 product.

From their news release today, the DEA is reporting that their scheme to do these massive search and seizures with accompanying arrests did not happen on the spur of the moment in response to the Texas K2 Overdoses; indeed, the DEA has been working with lots of other agencies within the federal government for months now to strike against synthetic drug manufacturing and distribution in the United States.

Project Synergy is the name of their joint operation with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The federal agencies have also been coordinating with various state and local agencies.

Project Synergy had its first national raid back in December 2012, when 227 people were arrested in 35 different states for synthetic drug charges and over $60 Million in cash and assets were seized.

Federal Law vs. Texas Law on Synthetic Marijuana

Today, if someone in Texas is stopped with fake pot and it’s a local cop or a state trooper, then they may not be arrested because their product may not violate Texas statutes as illegal drugs are defined today.

However, the federal government acts not under state law but under federal statute.

Back in 1986, Congress passed a law called the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (CSAEA). Today, DEA and its compadres in Project Synergy can use this 25+ year old law to arrest people found with synthetic drugs if they can be shown to be “analogous” to an illegal Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance.

What is an “analogous” drug? It’s something that crime lab techs can test and show is similar in chemical makeup to the illegal federal drug.

So, the K2 Raids today are not arrests under Texas law and those facing charges won’t be standing in front of a Texas judge. They’ll be going forward in the federal system, mounting defenses and arguments against not only a guilty verdict but federal prison time assessed using the federal sentencing guidelines.

Big, big surprise for lots of people who were making, selling, or using synthetic K2 all because they thought synthetic drugs made them safe from arrest, right?

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