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July 10, 2012

ATTORNEY GENERAL MADIGAN: ‘OPERATION SMOKED OUT’ NETS ILLEGAL SYNTHETIC DRUGS AT FOUR DECATUR STORES

Springfield — Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported today that four Decatur retailers relinquished more than $57,000 worth of illegal synthetic drugs as part of “Operation Smoked Out,” a statewide initiative aimed at eliminating the dangerous drugs from Illinois retail stores. In all, 2,214 packages of synthetic drugs were handed over to law enforcement officials.

“The presence of these illegal products in convenience stores and shops in communities around the state has fueled a rapid increase synthetic drug use, particularly among teens and young adults statewide,” Madigan said. “These store visits are part of our ongoing effort to spread awareness about the extreme danger these drugs pose and to send a message to community retailers that these drugs have no place being sold in their establishments.”

Investigators from Madigan’s office joined the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and Decatur police to check the inventory at four locations over the last several days. Illegal products were located and relinquished at:

  • A 1 Grocery – 151 N. Jasper – 1,309 packages – street value: $39,270;
  • A 1 Food & Liquor – 2975 E. Faires – 73 packages – street value: $1,900;
  • Phillips 66 – 1250 W. Southside Dr. – 304 packages – street value: $5,416;
  • Smoker’s Den – 232 W. Main – 528 packages – street value: $10,915.

“Our Department was glad to see the voluntary compliance in the surrender of the K2 products and bath salts by local businesses. We feel this is a step in the right direction for the safety of our community,” said Lt. Cody L. Moore of Criminal Investigations for the Decatur Police Department.

“It was a great opportunity to work with the Attorney General and local police to combat this serious epidemic,” Sheriff Thomas Schneider said. “I am surprised that some of the items we thought we had eradicated turned up again in such quantity, but we remain involved in educating citizens of the serious effects synthetic drugs have on people.”

The increase in synthetic drug use has been evidenced by the dramatic rise in calls to poison control centers across the country about synthetic marijuana and “bath salts,” which are another form of synthetic drugs that contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine. In 2010, poison control centers nationwide received 2,915 calls related to synthetic marijuana use. That figure jumped to 6,890 calls in 2011. Bath salt-related calls skyrocketed from 303 in 2010 to 6,072 in 2011.

Attorney General Madigan has been working on many fronts to increase awareness of the dangers of synthetic drugs. In November 2011, the Attorney General hosted the first-ever statewide emergency summit with state, county and local law enforcement officers, educators, health care professionals and parents to talk about the growing use of synthetic drugs and strategies to eliminate these drugs from Illinois communities. Since then, Madigan’s office has conducted numerous workshops with prosecutors and law enforcement personnel throughout Illinois, and last month, Madigan joined Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller in Evansville, Ind., for a joint roundtable with members of law enforcement from the border states to discuss strategies for dealing with both synthetic drug use and methamphetamine.

In conjunction with “Operation Smoked Out,” Madigan proposed a bill that was passed by the General Assembly to crack down on the retail sale of synthetic drugs. House Bill 5233 defines a “synthetic drug product” as one that contains a controlled substance not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The bill, which is awaiting Governor Quinn’s signature, also addresses the fact that these drugs are sold in packages with misleading labels claiming the products are legal. The bill makes it illegal under the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act to sell these drugs and significantly increases the penalty for selling drugs with misleading labels.

Many states, including Illinois, initially responded to the rise of synthetic drug use by passing laws that banned specific formulas of synthetic marijuana and bath salts. Drug makers attempted to sidestep these laws by replacing the banned chemicals with slightly different formulas. A recent Illinois law that went into effect on Jan.1 takes a broader approach and bans all chemicals that are structural derivatives of the previously-banned chemicals. Madigan’s legislation would complement this current measure.

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