Federal Drug Enforcement Agents Cracking Down on Synthetic Marijuana in South Florida
As a Fort Lauderdale drug crimes criminal defense lawyer, I was very interested to see an article from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about an apparent new push to arrest people connected with synthetic marijuana. The substance, or substances, in question are sold in convenience stores across south Florida under names like “Relaxino” and “K2,” but the federal Drug Enforcement Agency contends that they’re not legal and in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. A Palm Beach County man who distributes the synthetic marijuana to convenience stores was arrested April 15 after an undercover sting that provided evidence that he was selling it to retail store owners. A spokesperson for the DEA said the agency is ramping up its investigations. Under the circumstances, I suspect others involved in selling, distributing or even using these substances should be careful, even if they thought their activities were perfectly legal.
The arrest was of Joel Howard Lester, 52, a Canadian national who had been living in Boca Raton. Lester met with an agent posing as a retail store owner interested in selling the substances, and ultimately sold the agent 50 one-gram packages that were fruit-scented as well as allegedly laced with synthetic marijuana. Lester is being held without bond on charges of distributing the substances. According to the article, synthetic marijuana is made from synthetic cannabinoids that have been sprayed onto dried plants of a type not specified. Manufacturers use compounds slightly different from those that are banned in Florida in order to keep their substances legal. In response, the state reclassified some of the synthetic substances as illegal early in 2011, with a goal of getting them permanently banned.
The article was unclear on whether or why the substances are federally banned, but a similar article from the Miami Herald on April 13 suggested federal authorities are also trying to keep up with synthetic cannabis makers by banning each new substance they create. That article said the City of Sweetwater is being urged by its police department to ban synthetic cannabis. Sweetwater police officers reportedly staked out a convenience store in the city after being tipped off about unusual activity there. At the stakeout, they observed underage kids and teenagers buying the substances, which were packaged as incense, freely; because they are not tobacco, there s no age limit on buying them. However, authorities told both newspapers that they have health concerns about synthetic cannabis, with reports of heart palpitations, aggression, disorientation, seizures, panic attacks and hallucinations.
As a South Florida drug trafficking defense attorney, I see these reports as a warning sign for anyone with any connection to synthetic marijuana in south Florida. Though the DEA told the Sun-Sentinel that it’s focusing on “large actors,” the state of Florida and municipalities like Sweetwater may be more than happy to arrest users and convenience store owners or workers. All of these people could face serious drug charges for activities they thought were completely legal, and which indeed are legal or were until recently. This could include distribution or even trafficking of drugs for the sellers, and possession of drugs or drug analogues for the buyers — with potential extra penalties if they happened to share with friends. As a Miami marijuana crimes defense lawyer, I am particularly concerned because many of the possessors are reportedly teenagers, which means they could face juvenile drug crimes charges that could hurt their chances of success in college, work or the military.
If you’re arrested for any kind of drug crime in Florida, or even under investigation, don’t wait to call Seltzer Law, P.A. for help. For a free, confidential case evaluation, send us a message online or call anytime — 24 hours a day and seven days a week — at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).
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