New designer drugs have hit East Tennessee, and they have Blount County Sheriff's office taking steps to head them off before they become a major problem.
"The highs are 10 times stronger than regular Marijuana. It causes chest pains, increased blood pressure, suicidal tendencies, and sometimes even death," explained Captain Ron Talbott.
The new designer drugs are made in synthetic meth and marijuana forms. The fake meth types are sometimes known by their street names: "Bath Salts" or "Plant Food. The fake marijuana types are sometimes known as "Diablo," "Phoenix Earth," or "potpourri."
Capt. Talbott heads the Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force. The Sheriff's office is working with Alcoa and Maryville Police Departments to warn convenience store and tobacco shop owners of two new laws that make possession of synthetic drugs illegal.
"We decided to do a letter and disseminate it to the stores to educate them on what they can and can't possess," said Capt. Talbott.
Last month, investigators delivered a letter explaining the new law to 50-60 stores in Blount County. Capt. Talbott said they only found two stores with the illegal substances on their shelves. Neither store was cited, but owners were asked to get rid of the fake drugs. Capt. Talbott said they knew some stores would be confused about what they could sell because the packs often don't list ingredients.
Archana Dusa owns one of the stores. She has complied and no longer carries any synthetic substances.
"We were a little confused, but we didn't get any information like that it was legal or illegal. But, we heard like many of them sold, but it was selling good," explained Dusa.
Dusa said she was selling about 10-15 packs of synthetic marijuana each week. She said each pack cost between $15 and $20.
Capt. Talbott said investigators will eventually re-visit all of the stores they delivered the educational letter too. Possession of synthetic drugs is a Class A felony. Capt. Talbott said it's he same offense as possessing marijuana or cocaine. Anyone convicted of possession of synthetic drugs could face a fine and up to 11 months in jail.