Claremore Daily Progress

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October 4, 2011

Search and Seizure: Controlled substances taken from convenience stores

CLAREMORE — Claremore Police officers   issued search warrants Monday to select Rogers County convenience stores, seizing various products containing a synthetic controlled substance sold under the guise of incense or potpourri.

Working in conjunction with Catoosa Police, Rogers County Sheriff’s Deputies, the Rogers County District Attorney’s office and others, police served search warrants to seven Rogers County convenience stores — five in Claremore, one in Catoosa and one in the Sequoyah area — to confiscate products being sold containing synthetic cannabinoids.

“Our intent (with the search warrants) is to seize the illegal products, have conversations with the owners and/or the employees to tell them that by interpretation of the law, this is an illegal product and we don’t want them to expose our community to this problem any longer,” Chief of Police Stan Brown said. “Should they continue to sell these products, they can be subject to charges of selling synthetic controlled and dangerous substances, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia, as in some of these cases, marijuana pipes also can be purchased there.”

Convenience stores which were served search warrants included the Quick Marts at 2323 Holly and 211 West 1st Street, Buy N Bye at 601 East Will Rogers Boulevard, Mo and Sam’s Corner at 657 Ramm Road, Swift Mart at 600 West Blue Starr, Kong’s in Sequoyah, and Jiffy Johns in Catoosa.

“This operation is in response to what we, at the Claremore Police Department, feel to both a community issue and a county if not state issue, and it’s growing,” Brown said  “It’s been gaining momentum across the board and it has to do with these retailers, particularly convenience stores, who are marketing this product as incense or potpourri, and they’re being sold in conjunction with smoking paraphernalia with the intent and purpose of human consumption.

“This product is illegal, under the definition of a synthetic controlled substance, as given in Oklahoma Statute 63-2-401c and 63-2-101, paragraph 7,” he continued. “It’s marketed under several different names, including ‘Gorilla Killer’, ‘Killa Skunk’, ‘Cloud 9’, ‘Mr. Nice Guy’, and several others. It’s marketed as an herbal incense, and for the most part, the packaging is clearly labeled ‘Not intended for human consumption’.

“Several of these also make not (in the packaging) that the substance doesn’t contain K2, which is kind of a retro-reference to a drug which came on the scene a while back which was when marijuana was enhanced by introducing chemicals through hydroponic cultivation,” he said.

 “This product is not marijuana plant — it contains herbal substances, such as oregano in its green, leafy form, which has been soaked in this synthetic cannabinoid and then marketed as an incense or potpourri.”

Cannabinoids are any of a group of closely-related compounds which include cannabinol and the active constituents of cannabis, which can create a variety of effects if smoked, such as hallucinations, Brown said.

“What we’ve been seeing with this product is people smoking it, then having hallucinations which lead to acts of public intoxication to the point they can’t function,” he said. “I think the way it’s being marketed is that this items is sold under the guise of being an incense or potpourri, but people understand that its available for the purpose of human consumption,” he said.

“In many instances, these products aren’t on display but people who use them, know they’re there and ask for them, and what’s more alarming is that, as these products don’t contain tobacco, there has been no age restriction on who can legally purchase them — we’re seeing a marked increase in use of this product in our schools.”

Brown said there have been instances locally involving students using the product and becoming disruptive to the point they had to be removed from class, as well as increased reports of hospitalization of users of the product.

“For the last five weeks, we’ve averaged four cases per week of people admitted to our hospitals, where people have affirmed they’ve used this product,” he said.

“They experience hallucinations which leads to paranoia, which can lead to respiratory distress, and it’s my understanding that our neighbors to the east (Pryor) may have a youth death which can be attributed to this product — we want to ensure that doesn’t happen here.

“What we’ve been seeing in Claremore is people getting behind the wheel of a car and endangering themselves and others in driving while under the influence of this product,” he said.

 “Further, there’s one case of a person involved in a breaking and entering case while under the influence of this product, so this is an issue for the Claremore Police Department in that we’ve clearly seen an outbreak in the use of this product in our community and we’re wanting to deal with it before it gets any worse.”

Claremore Police Investigator John Singer, who was instrumental in the investigation and coordination of the operation, concurs.

“Officer Steve Cox and I have made cases for felony distribution of illegal synthetic substances at each of these stores, but this operation isn’t about arresting people,” Singer said.

“What we’re doing is getting these community stores to stop (selling the products), but letting them know that we will prosecute if they continue to do so.”

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