Increasing attention from state and federal law enforcement is spotlighting the synthetic drug trade and massive raids are taking place in Alabama and nationwide. According to local news reports, an ongoing operation known as “Project Synergy” by the DEA is aggressively targeting individuals and organizations involved in the designer drugs trade. In Alabama, the operation and raids are taking place statewide and have been deemed part of the “Operation Red Tide” effort. Both state and federal agencies are targeting convenience stores and other shops where synthetic drugs are sold, resulting in arrests, and serious felony drug charges.
Synthetic drugs include a range of classes from stimulants to hallucinogens. Manufacture, distribution, and use of synthetic drugs is on the rise. The DEA asserts that it has identified between 200 and 300 new designer drugs since 2009. Our Birmingham drug crimes defense attorneys are abreast of the drug-related legal issues that impact Alabama residents. As defense attorneys, our priority is offering strategic representation to those who are charged and arrested and ensuring that citizens are aware of their rights, from search and seizure, through arrest and adjudication.
At least 200 locations that allegedly sell synthetic drugs will be searched. These raids are taking place throughout Alabama by the DEA in a joint operation involving the Customs and Border Protection, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement as well as the FBI and local agencies. The IRS and Homeland Security investigations are also involved. Officials claim that targeting synthetic drug distributors goes beyond individual safety and low-level drug crimes. The federal agencies allege that the sale of these drugs is also going to support terrorist networks and could threaten the security of the United States.
According to the DEA, those who sell synthetic drugs are often from places like Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries where they send the money back home. Synthetic drugs are smokable products and marketed as legal. They produce a high similar to smoking marijuana and contain synthetic stimulants and hallucinogens, including bath salts. According to officials, the drugs mimic the effects of LSD, meth or cocaine and have catchy names like “Purple Wave” or “Vanilla Sky.” The DEA reports that synthetic drugs are manufactured in China and have caused significant health and safety risks for users. The agency has documented high rates of abuse, addiction, overdose and ER treatments related to synthetic drug use. Those who have used synthetic drugs report that they experience reduced perception and motor control, paranoia, and even violent episodes.
Now state and federal owners want to target the alleged source, including convenience store owners and operators. According to the DEA, those who distribute synthetic drugs can make a significant profit, especially when bought at low rates overseas and distributed in the United States. The profit margin can be as much as $1,000 for a kilogram purchased and sold for $200,000. The federal operation and raids were initiated in December of 2012. This has already led to 227 arrests and 416 search warrants in 35 different states, including Alabama.