Six men were charged Tuesday with possession and distribution of synthetic marijuana after allegedly selling the substance to undercover investigators in Wildwood and the Rio Grande section of Middle Township.
The arrests, which included a seventh person charged with selling toxic chemicals, are the latest effort by the state Division of Consumer Affairs to enforce New Jersey’s ban on synthetic marijuana. Sellers say the designer drug offers a marijuana-like high.
“We will take aggressive action in all instances where people continue to ignore our ban on these dangerous substances,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said in a release. “Before we made New Jersey the fourth state to outlaw all variants of synthetic marijuana, dealers got away with selling these chemicals, which mimic the effects of marijuana but which had not been specifically classified as illegal.
“That game is now over, and I commend the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs for their collaborative operation.”
The division has conducted similar operations in Atlantic City and other shore towns.
In Tuesday’s operation, members of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office arrested the suspects at the stores in which they allegedly sold the substances.
Investigators seized nearly 1,600 packets of suspected synthetic marijuana or other toxic chemicals with an estimated retail value of $160,000. They also seized $121,000 in cash, drug paraphernalia and 11 firearms at five of the stores and at one additional Wildwood shop that was searched by law enforcement, according to a news release from the DCA.
The synthetic marijuana came in brightly colored packages with brand names such as “K2,” “K2-Kush,” “Jersey Shore,” “Rehab,” “Bayou Blaster,” “White Rabbit,” “Mr. Stickey,” “Original Paranoia” and “Platinum,” the release said.
Each of the packets contained about 3 milligrams or less of the substance, according to the release.
The arrests are part of a joint investigation between the DCA and Prosecutor’s Office, and they follow investigations that took place in the summer of 2011. DCA investigators collected 1,400 of the small packets or vials, most valued at between $25 and $40 each, on the Wildwood Boardwalk during that investigation.
The DCA said suspected drug packets sold at five of the stores tested positive for one or more variants of synthetic marijuana.
All variants of synthetic marijuana were banned in New Jersey in February.
The man-made drugs are classified as Schedule I controlled dangerous substances, subject to the same level of control as cocaine or heroin. The distribution, sale or possession of the drugs is a third-degree crime, meaning those charged with the offense face fines of as much as $25,000 and between three and five years in prison.
The seventh person arrested was charged with the fourth-degree crime of selling a substance containing a toxic chemical knowing its intended use is to cause a condition of intoxication.
“These dangerous, toxic chemicals represent a clear threat to public health and safety, and their sale will not be tolerated in our county,” Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor said in a news release.
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