Task force agents and Cartersville Police Department officers executed a search warrant at the BP, 263 Cassville Road, Cartersville, that led to the seizure of a large quantity of products commonly referred to as "synthetic marijuana," along with currency and counterfeit purses.
DTF Sgt. Brian Bunce said Monday's raid was the result of an undercover investigation stemming from complaints about the location.
"It came to our attention that substances commonly referred to on the street as synthetic marijuana were being sold from that store located at 263 Cassville Road," he said. "... Investigation revealed, or confirmed, that fact. One substance in particular, labeled Manic Organic, was sent to the crime lab and tested by them and found to contain a schedule I drug -- 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylcathinone."
A warrant was obtained based on that information, and products similar to Manic Organic were located. The cash recovered is believed to be from sales of the fake drug.
Bunce noted that some employees were apprehensive about selling the products, keeping them hidden behind the counter and being discriminatory on who could purchase the fake marijuana, implying legality issues.
Although none were made Monday, he said the agency anticipates arrests in the future, and other locations may be targeted for selling the synthetic drugs.
DTF Commander Capt. Mark Mayton said Monday afternoon that the idea the synthetic items were legal is entirely false.
"Quite frankly, it's a felony to possess. It's not just a misdemeanor. Where you would find less than an ounce of marijuana is, in fact, a misdemeanor, just having this on your person is a felony in itself," he said.
Bunce echoed Mayton's sentiment, explaining the state passed laws banning the products.
"There is a common misconception that this 'synthetic marijuana' is legal and that, in fact, is not the case. There is legislation that was passed by the state of Georgia making the substance synthetic marijuana illegal," he said. "And there is a misconception also that, because it is being called synthetic marijuana, that it is, in fact, organic [similar to] marijuana, but in fact, it's the chemicals that are sprayed on it afterward that make it illegal. Usually the organic material, or leafy material, that you will see is not really the problem -- it's the chemical ... I mentioned is sprayed on it and then it's packaged and sold that way."
Georgia's law took effect in 2010, making many of the chemicals commonly known as synthetic marijuana a schedule I compound. Georgia House Bill 1021, also from 2010, amended the Georgia Dangerous Drug Act to control Salvinorin A, the most abundant active ingredient in the plant Salvia divinorum.
Synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice or K-2, made headlines recently when a Fayette County teenager died after smoking fake pot.
For Bunce, the dangers lie in the unknown.
"The danger really with any drug is you never really know what's inside," he said, adding that the packages seized Monday were labeled "Not for human consumption" and may contain potpourri.
"Not only do you have the dangers of the illegal drugs, the schedule I's and the ones that are illegal, you have the dangers of smoking potpourri, inhaling potpourri, or whatever else is in these substances," he said. "This isn't something that is being monitored by the FDA, there is no FDA approval, so there's no quality assurance so to speak. It's buyer beware -- you really never know what's inside.
"There is this misconception among the public that what they are getting is uniform, which is synthetic marijuana, and again, with the idea that it is similar to marijuana, when in fact it couldn't be farther from it. This is straight out of the chemistry set."