CHICAGO (CBS)– An inside look into the growing seizures of synthetic marijuana being shipped in from other countries. CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini exposes the dangers and the new technology being used to quickly identify the drugs then track down and capture the dealers.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have seen a big increase in synthetic marijuana pouring in, from other countries.
In the Midwest region alone, synthetic marijuana seizures are set to nearly triple. Last year, 135 pounds were seized. This year, CBP is on pace to seize more than 435 pounds. They are now using new technology called the Gemini–a laser that helps officers identify narcotics instantaneously.
Getting immediate results instead of waiting 30 days for a lab test allows law enforcement to put the package back on track–shipping it to the buyer as part of a sting.
“So that we can take down the people who are importing this stuff,” said Matt Davies, CBP area port director. “It’s deadly (so) it kills a lot of people.”
In 2011, Karen Dobner’s son Max, 19, died after ingesting synthetic marijuana. Max Dobner suffered hallucinations and crashed his car into a home.
“People don’t know what they’re getting,” said Dobner.
Dobner bought it from a store in the Fox Valley Mall. Back then, the 2 Investigators went undercover to expose Ruby Moishen the store owner selling it. She, along with the manufacturer and distributor, were all convicted this year.
Angela Darsham’s two sons were hospitalized together in March after buying it in Peoria from a different dealer.
“It’s destroying everybody,” said Darsham. “It destroys families. It destroys lives.”
Her youngest son, Brandon, died after ingesting a batch that was laced with rat poison. This tainted drug is causing an epidemic in Illinois–it has left four dead and 166 overdoses.
Nathan Darsham survived his overdose and promised to quit, but admits it is addictive. His mother says he has repeatedly relapsed and was back in the emergency room last week.
“You don’t know, you are rolling the dice every time,” said Nathan Darsham about the dangers of taking the drug.
Synthetic marijuana is always different, with different chemicals and doses, so users do not know what they are consuming, says Neele Shepard, branch chief for CBP.
“These things are manufactured in a clandestine environment,” said Shepard.
Now with new technology making it faster to identify, authorities can get it off the streets quicker and track the dealers selling it.
Another benefit of the machine is that it detects the drugs while still packaged, protecting officers from potentially dangerous exposure.