(BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today reminded business owners that they will face serious criminal and civil penalties if caught selling synthetic drugs.
The warning came today as agents with the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) assisted deputies with the Belmont County Sheriff's Office in serving four search warrants related to the sale of synthetic cannabinoids, which are also known as synthetic marijuana or herbal incense.
"This is not the first time we've warned business owners to stop selling synthetic drugs or face the consequences, yet some store owners continue to knowingly profit off the addictive nature of these substances," said Attorney General DeWine. "Today's raids just go to show that if you are selling these drugs, law enforcement will find out."
In addition to today's four search warrants, BCI has assisted local law enforcement in serving seven other search warrants in Montgomery, Clark, Guernsey, Ashtabula, and Seneca counties this year. A total of seven civil lawsuits have been filed in 2013 alone.
Today's search warrants were served at the Trading Post in Bridgeport and at the home of its owner; at the Shadyside Party Center in Shadyside; and at Bob's Cheap Smokes in St. Clairsville. One person was taken into custody.
Investigators found that those at the businesses were selling the synthetic drugs under names including "Caution," "California Dreams," "Kush Max," "Joker," and "Mr. Happy."
"The sale of synthetic drugs in Belmont County is becoming a big problem and we want these drugs gone," said Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas. "We are grateful for the assistance of the Attorney General's Office to get these dangerous substances out of our neighborhoods."
The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section filed civil lawsuits against those with ties to the businesses, alleging that they engaged in unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable acts by selling the illegal drugs as legal products. Nuisance abatements were filed in an effort to close the businesses for one year.
Today's warrants were served as part of an intensified effort by local and state law enforcement agencies to fight the sale of synthetic drugs. In November, Attorney General DeWine sent a warning letter to retailers advising them of the risks of continuing to sell synthetic substances.
Authorities with the Belmont County Drug Taskforce, Belmont County Prosecutor's Office, and Drug Enforcement Administration's Tactical Diversion Squad also assisted in the investigation.
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Jill Del Greco: 614-466-3840