Sale of synthetic dope should be a felony; commission

Friday, January 27, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

A resolution asking for legislation to make the sale of synthetic drugs a felony was unanimously approved by Marshall County commissioners at their meeting this week.

Tim Lane, director of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force, explained to commissioners why a change in the legislation was necessary.

"The law doesn't have enough teeth," Lane said. Now, sale of synthetic drugs is a misdemeanor offence. Law enforcement wants the legislature to make it a Class E Felony, punishable by up to six years in jail for a "career" offender and a $3,000 fine.

Lane told commissioners that "synthetic drugs" are sold under all kinds of brand names. Up to 70 different brand names have been tested and found to contain controlled substances.

Storeowners like them because they can make a lot of money, he said.

"It's a multi-million dollar business throughout the United States," Lane said.

The price can be $30 for 5 grams of "incense," and Lane said two Lewisburg stores were making $4,000 to $5,000 per night, and up to $10,000 each weekend, with customers even coming from outside the county to buy the products.

He said distributors typically tell storeowners they can sell the products because they don't contain illegal drugs, and offer a copy of a laboratory report from Tulane University.

Lane said the substances confiscated in recent raids in Lewisburg were all sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab and "came back in all cases as a controlled substance."

Though the products were being sold as "incense," Lane pointed out that none of the stores sell incense burners. Observers might conclude that burning it to scent the air is not what this "incense" is going to be used for.

"It's not something we need in Marshall County," Lane concluded. "It's a real bad idea."