In a series of nationwide raids that began on Wednesday, July 25, 2012, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led task force successfully seized $36 million in cash, almost 5 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids and a sizable quantity of the synthetic hallucinogen known on the street as “bath salts.” The crackdown, which was conducted under the name “Operation Log Jam”, resulted in the arrest of over 90 individuals as well as the seizure of 53 weapons and $6 million in other assets.
Operation Log Jam included DEA agents, the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Customs Border Protection, the FBI, the Food Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations and local police agencies. The raids took place in over 100 cities in 30 different states and succeeded in removing 4.8 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids and 167,000 packets of bath salts from circulation. The raids also netted enough raw materials to manufacture 13.6 million additional packets of synthetic cannabinoids and 392,000 more packets of bath salts.
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart discussed the raids at news briefings on Thursday, June 26 and Friday, June 27, 2012. The DEA director has been very outspoken about the dangers of synthetic drugs and she told reporters, “What’s troubling is they’re marketing to young people, young people have an outlet at these smoke shops, these retail outlets. So little is known about these substances, because of the dangers, you’ve seen the headlines, people who have committed murders, suicide, those calls to poison control.”
According to officials, the raids were also intended to disrupt the flow of assets used to finance the manufacture of the drugs and to confiscate the enormous profits generated by their sale. The IRS is devoting substantial resources to tracking individuals at all levels of the financial chain. “The major goal is to document the movement of money during the course of the crime, link between where the money comes from, who gets this,” said Richard Weber, IRS Chief of Criminal Investigation. The $36 million seized in Operation Log Jam is a tiny fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars that go untaxed every year from the profits of illicit drug trafficking.
Bath salts, marketed under names that include K-2, Spice and Vanilla Sky, have been linked to several recent violent and shocking episodes. In one particularly disturbing case, that took place in Munnsville, New York on June 12, 2012, a young woman, who was reputed to be high on bath salts, died of cardiac arrest after a prolonged struggle with police. Witnesses at the scene reported that the woman, 35, ran down the street naked after she threw her toddler son to the pavement and repeatedly tried to choke him. When police arrived, she violently resisted arrest, forcing the officers to resort to pepper spray and a taser to subdue her. The woman, who was suffering from a heart condition, is believed to have died from the effects of the drug and extreme physical exertion.
As a result of this and several other incidents, on July 9, 2012, President Obama signed a bill into law that banned synthetic drugs like “bath salts” and “fake weed.” The bill outlaws 31 substances that were being used as synthetic drugs or to manufacture synthetic drugs.
Unfortunately, there are still substantial loopholes in the law. Manufacturers of the drugs attempt to avoid having their products declared illegal by labeling them “not for human consumption.” Federal prosecutors are forced to devote valuable time and resources to the difficult task of proving the products are actually for human consumption in order to obtain convictions.
Despite the success of dozens of raids like Operation Log Jam every year, drug use continues to spiral out of control in the United States. Our economy is being drained of untold trillions of dollars and the cost in human suffering is enormous. Addiction is rampant and prisons are filled to overflowing with drug offenders. Needed medical resources are often devoted to treating overdoses and psychiatric episodes related to drug use. The use and abuse of prescription drugs is sky rocketing and addiction is claiming Americans from every walk of life.
The time has come for a new national consensus on drugs. Whether you support legalization or criminalization of drugs, it is painfully obvious that America’s War On Drugs is not working. We need to totally rethink our policies and our laws to stress education, prevention and treatment, instead of crime and punishment. The problem is that America is broke and the economy is in a shambles. When our nation will finally devote its resources to provide humane treatment for drug users and drug addicts is anyone’s guess, but one thing is sure. It won’t happen in an election year.