By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
Two store clerks were arrested Wednesday night or Thursday morning on charges that they allegedly sold synthetic marijuana to an undercover law enforcement agent, a Lewisburg Police detective has reported.
What's presented as incense contains a derivative of tetrahydrocannabinol, perhaps better known as THC, the principal psychoactive part of the cannabis plant, Police Detective Sgt. David Henley said, adding that "underage kids see it as the new high," despite the dangers.
Lawmen said the stores raided were Gravity on West Commerce Street and Pat's Puffs N Stuff on East Commerce. The raids were led by Tim Miller, assistant director of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force. Attempts to reach Miller were unsuccessful.
A Cornersville man and a Columbia woman were arrested and charged as a result of the raids.
Timothy Wayne Nafe, 30, of Cornersville, was charged with production, manufacture, distribution of salvia. His bond was set at $2,000.
Britney Nichole Davis, 19, of Columbia was charged with the sale of synthetic derivative. Her bond was also set at $2,000.
Both were charged by the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force.
"We went in and took what we believe to be synthetic marijuana from behind the counter," Henley said. "They had a lot of it on display. We also took smoking paraphernalia; hookahs, bongs and pipes."
The task force investigation began after law enforcement agencies "received a large number of complaints from citizens over an extended period of time, but we had to wait until we had a clear view of what the law said before we took action," the detective sergeant said.
Synthetic drugs have attracted extensive publicity elsewhere in recent weeks.
The drug task force works under the authority of the district attorney and speaking about the District Attorneys Conference and that organization's legislative goals, District Attorney Chuck Crawford spoke out in a column published here last week.
"Synthetic drugs such as K2 (synthetic marijuana) have devastating mental and physical side effects," Crawford wrote in a guest column on page 4 of the Tribune last week. "They are spreading across our state and have the potential to eclipse methamphetamine as the most dangerous drug in Tennessee.
"These drugs are often marketed in convenience stores as incense, bath salts or plant food, and commonly feature cartoon characters on package labels," the prosecuting attorney said.
"In 2012, Tennessee's district attorneys will seek to increase penalties for those who sell and produce synthetic drugs," Crawford said of the DAs' Conference's legislative goal at the Tennessee General Assembly. "Because synthetics constantly change to capitalize on existing legal gray areas, the DAs will also work to make certain these substances remain illegal and out of reach of our youth."
The ill effects of K2 have been seen at the local emergency room, police said.
"We have had medical cases here," Henley said. "It causes the heart to stop."
Elsewhere, he said, "There have been deaths."
Some synthetic drugs are marketed as bath salts.
"Some packages go for as much as $59," Henley said.
The task force raids and related police actions were conducted from approximately 7 p.m. Wednesday to nearly 1 a.m. Thursday.