by: Tom Regan Updated:
CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. - Narcotics officers and D-E-A agents raided four stores in Cherokee County on Tuesday, seizing 9,000 packets of what they described as suspected synthetic marijuana.
"We are not making criminal cases on this. That's not the goal of this. It's to get this product out of the hands of the public." said Phil Price, commander of the Cherokee Multi Agency Narcotics Squad.
Price showed Channel 2's Tom Regan the stacks of boxed and packaged herbal substances. The products were seized after the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy issued an emergency ruling Monday that bans virtually all forms of herbal incense and potpourri that is sold in smoke shops and convenience stores.
The board took action on a request from Gov. Nathan Deal, and a ruling from the state medical examiner that synthetic marijuana contributed to the drowning death of Chase Burnett, a 16-year-old student from Peachtree City.
Burnett was found dead in his family's hot tub March 4. Channel 2 Action News first reported dozens of emergency room calls linked to use of synthetic pot. The Georgia Legislature outlawed compounds used to make synthetic cannabinoid in 2010, and amended the law to make it more inclusive of molecular variations of the drug. Recently, chemists at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined manufactures had created a new molecular structure that skirted the ban. That new molecular structure is included in the emergency ruling issued by the state.
Price says samples the products seized will be tested by the GBI to determine if the contain any illegal compounds. Those which are legal will be returned to merchants.
The owner of H-Y Novelties told Regan that he believes narcotics officer violated his constitutional rights by seizing more than 5,000 packets of potpourri from his shop. He said they took the products without providing any evidence that they were illegal.
"It looked, felt, smelled and seemed like illegal search and seizure," said Todd Sherman.
He told Regan none of the products on his shelves contained illegal compounds.
"I spend $10,000 on one order Monday. They came in yesterday and took all of that." said Sherman.
Authorities said the banned is aimed at preventing another tragedy linked to the designer drug.
"There's no control, no watchdog, there's nothing to prevent some child from getting hold of this." said Price.