MEMPHIS - Thirty-five people were arrested in West Tennessee on Wednesday as part of a national crackdown against synthetic drugs, federal law enforcement officials said.
More than 400 agents and officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and several other agencies raided homes and businesses in Humboldt, Mason, Jackson and Memphis, looking for sellers of synthetic designer drugs, said Edward Stanton, the U.S. Attorney in West Tennessee.
Stanton said drugs seized in the investigation include synthetic marijuana, with street names such as "Spice" or "K2. Also seized were drugs commonly known as bath salts, which have effects that mimic methamphetamine, LSD, cocaine or MDMA.
At least 14 businesses, mostly tobacco shops that allegedly sold the drugs, were closed as nuisances in Shelby County, which includes Memphis.
"These highly addictive and potentially lethal substances will not be tolerated, and those who are brazen enough to sell this poison, particularly to our children and young adults, will be held accountable," Stanton said.
Hundreds of warrants were served across the U.S. on Wednesday, in what officials described as the largest ever crackdown on those who make and distribute synthetic designer drugs.
The drugs, often marketed as herbal incense or other seemingly innocuous products, are marketed to teenagers and young adults in a growing industry that has netted millions of dollars from traffickers, said DEA Chief of Operations James Capra in Washington. Use of synthetic drugs has led to increases in emergency room visits around the country and routinely leads to a dangerous psychosis, he added.
The 35 people indicted in West Tennessee face charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute the drugs. Some also were charged with money laundering. If convicted, those charged could face up to 20 to 30 years in prison.