Alabama officials recently announced that they had seized nearly $10 million worth of synthetic marijuana, as part of an ongoing crackdown on illegal drugs throughout the state.
Birmingham drug crime lawyers know that an increasing number of people are going to be caught up in felony drug charges as investigators continue their aggressive tactics.
This particular bust, in Mobile, is being hailed by law enforcement officers as “the most important things we’ve seen happen” in the city. Arrests came about after two months of undercover investigations by both county and city law enforcement agencies.
According to police, more than 700 pounds of synthetic marijuana was seized over the course of serving four search warrants. Officials have estimated the worth somewhere between $3 million and $10 million. Police also confiscated nearly $27,000 in cash, 19 firearms, four vehicles and numerous smoking paraphernalia.
Three men in their 20s were charged with distribution of a controlled substance, a felony.
Synthetic drugs, and synthetic marijuana in particular, has proven troublesome both for law enforcement and regulators.
Earlier this summer, President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 that banned synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs. A number of state and local governments had already taken similar action. The federal law merits stiffer penalties for first-time sellers of synthetic marijuana.
Alabama outlawed synthetic marijuana in 2011. Referred to by street names such as Spice, K-2, and Genie, the drug was not too long ago sold in drug and convenience stores. Now, store owners face possession of a controlled substance charges just for carrying it.
It costs about $20 a gram, and is essentially made from legal plant materials combined with chemical powders.
While there are few studies outlining the physical effects of the substance, health care providers have laid forth anecdotal evidence pointing to serious side effects, which is what led legislators to act so swiftly.
However, the problem for regulators and law enforcement has been that the chemical make-up of the substances, as defined in these legislative measures, has often already been altered. This is one argument that could be made by Birmingham defense attorneys. If the drug as it exists isn’t currently listed under the state or federal laws, then it’s not technically illegal.
What’s also interesting is that news of this high-profile bust as part of a greater crackdown came just as researchers from the University of Philadelphia reported that Alabama has the lowest rate of illegal drug use in the nation, as measured by doctors who routinely screen for drugs.
In fact, the illegal rate of drug use in Alabama was measured at 6 percent. Compare that to the state with the highest drug abuse, Massachusetts, which claimed a rate three times that much at 18 percent.
Such data certainly begs the question of whether our resources are being appropriately spent, particularly if the laws are they are written are not even effective or fully enforceable.