Huge synthetic bust likely won't make dent in Louisville's designer drug problem
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville business owner was arrested last week after Louisville Metro Police say they pulled several hundred pounds of synthetic marijuana from his businesses and home.
Police say they executed search warrants at three Smoker's Oasis locations, as well as at a medical discount store, both of which are owned by 45-year-old Abdul Alshawi.
Officers also say they searched Alshawi's home on Moody Road, near the intersection of Blue Lick Road and Foreman Lane.
While searching these locations, officers allegedly discovered several hundred pounds of synthetic marijuana, several hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, and three handguns.
The Smoker's Oasis near the corner of Hurstborne Parkway and Bardstown Road was open for business Monday. Only days after owner Alshawi was arrested for trafficking synthetic marijuana.
A person who identified himself as the manager of the store told WDRB that the police raid was unwarranted, and insisted they don't sell anything illegal.
But police call Alshawi a "major supplier of synthetic drugs."
Despite the fact that synthetic marijuana is illegal in Kentucky, police say shops like these continue to find ways to sell it.
"They sell it as a bath salt, or an incense, and they label it 'not for human consumption'," said Lt. J.T. Duncan of LMPD narcotics. "We actually have to do a lengthy investigation and see how they're selling it."
Duncan said they have to make several undercover purchases and find that the store is selling it as a synthetic They also will use testing to determine that the "incense" contains chemicals used to get high.
Patrick Fogarty with treatment center, the Healing Place, says manufacturers are changing the chemical makeup of these drugs often in order to skirt around laws, which makes it hard to test for.
"It's created in a lab, no FDA regulation," he said. "It is synthetic chemicals sprayed onto legal herbs, and a lot of times sold as incense."
Patrick Fogarty with the Healing Place says designer drugs like the synthetic marijuana police say was being sold at Smoker's Oasis, has been creating addicts for several years now.
"Five years ago, we were stuck with the prescription drug epidemic and methamphetamine and now its evolved into heroin, but this has been steady throughout."
He says he's surprised over how many clients chose synthetics as their drug of choice, and many of them are adolescents.
"When you see a bust to this magnitude, that will show you the huge demand locally for it," said Fogarty.
Unfortunately, Fogarty said, even a bust of this size likely won't make a dent in the synthetic drug problem-- because where there's demand, there's a supplier.
Alshawi posted bond Monday and was released from Metro Corrections. He faces felony drug charges.
Copyright 2014 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.