Stamping Out Synthetic Drugs

East Ohio may be a hotbed of trade in synthetic drugs, at least to judge by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s activities. It needs to be stamped out, wherever it is occurring.

A St. Clairsville store, Bob’s Cheap Smokes, has been ordered closed temporarily after a Belmont County judge agreed with DeWine’s contention synthetic drugs were being sold there. DeWine is seeking similar action, on public nuisance, against the Martins Ferry Party Center and the Bridgeport Party Center.

DeWine’s office has filed 13 civil lawsuits throughout the state this year in similar cases.

It may be that the energy shown by local law enforcement officers and agencies has contributed to the high proportion of synthetic drug cases pursued locally by DeWine’s office, in comparison to other locations in Ohio. If so, kudos to the local agencies, including municipal police departments, the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department and the Belmont County Drug Task Force.

Producers and sellers of synthetic drugs attempt to use chemistry to outfox the law, by creating new compounds and treatments for apparently harmless materials such as potpourri and incense. Those materials are infused with chemicals such as XLR11 that mimic the effects of the active ingredient in marijuana, THC.

But legislators and law enforcement agencies are attempting to stay one step ahead of the pushers by identifying such chemicals and making their sale a criminal offense. Some of the “incense” and “potpourri” bought in Belmont County by undercover agents was found to contain XLR11.

Several tipoffs to the nefarious nature of such products are obvious. For one thing, they cost more than legitimate incense and potpourri. For another, they often come in packages stipulating they are for sale only to customers 18 years of age or older. And the packages often stress material inside is “legal in all 50 states” – even if it is not.

Names such as “Diablo,” “Mad Hatter,” “Beast” and “Mr. Happy” are used. One package of “potpourri” bought locally by an undercover agent even featured pictures of leaves resembling be marijuana.

Some of the court orders DeWine seeks appear harsh. In one case, he seeks closure of two stores and a prohibition on their owners ever owning or operating a convenience, grocery or drive-through business again. But if store owners are to be deterred from selling synthetic drugs, harsh punishment is necessary.

So is active enforcement – and both local police and sheriff’s departments, along with DeWine’s office, should keep up the good work.