Raids in Mo., Kan. target synthetic marijuana

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Raids conducted in the Kansas City area and Topeka this week are only the start of an operation targeting people who sell sometimes deadly synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of marijuana, a prosecutor in Kansas City, said.

About a dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies took part in the operation Tuesday that targeted gas stations, convenience stores and other businesses selling the substances commonly known as K2.

Officers served 45 search warrants in the Kansas City area and Topeka and arrested 31 people. About 24,000 individual packets of drugs and more than $100,000 in cash had been seized by midafternoon.

“This is just the beginning of the operation,” said Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Michael Hunt. “Our goal is to stop the trafficking of this illegal drug. We’ve had kids put in the hospital and who have died from this.”

The substances, sold as colorfully named and packaged products, often are labeled as incense or potpourri and are readily available online. Tuesday’s raids indicate they’re also not that hard to find in a number of retail establishments.

Usually marked as “not for human consumption,” the drugs are smoked to get a marijuana-like high. Reports of serious health problems and deaths across the country attributed to ingestion of the substances have prompted efforts to outlaw them.

In Kansas and Missouri, lawmakers have passed broad legislation encompassing the whole class of chemicals used to make K2.

Law enforcement officials said Tuesday’s sweep was months in the planning.

Kansas City, Kan., police served search warrants at eight businesses and three private homes, including one in Lenexa, at 11 a.m. In Gladstone, Mo., police targeted three businesses, while Topeka, Kan., police served warrants at eight businesses there.

The Kansas City, Kan., action was the culmination of an investigation that began in June 2012, police Detective Darren Koberlein said.

The investigation on the Missouri side started at the beginning of this year, Jackson County Drug Task Force spokesman Dan Cummings said.

Officials said they hoped Tuesday’s raids would send a message to others who think it’s OK to peddle the substances.

“If you’re selling this stuff, we’re coming after you,” Hunt said.

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