It may have been an unprecedented federal law enforcement effort. At this point, we have few details on the scope of the raids that took place Wednesday. YNN's Bill Carey says it took a while for everyone to realize that bath salts raids in their towns were part of a nationwide effort.
NEW YORK STATE -- The scenes have become familiar across the area in recent months, so, at first, no one was paying much attention as authorities moved in to stage raids at so-called head shops that are often tied to the sale of synthetic drugs, now commonly referred to as bath salts.
But as the day went on, it was clear that the scope of the activity was far beyond anything seen before. And the raids weren't just happening across Upstate New York. Reports circulated of similar police action across the country.
The investigative effort has been underway for some time, but what seems to have cleared the way for the widespread action by the DEA is a new law, signed by President Obama earlier this month, that broadens the definition of what synthetic compounds were being outlawed. Past laws were not effective since those mixing the compounds simply changed the formulas to skirt any prohibitions.
"These synthetic substances I've described before as Russian Roulette because the short-term consequences of using synthetic drugs is so unpredictable and frankly, so dangerous. These short-term effects include convulsions, paranoia, rapid heart rate and including very serious seizures," said Western New York U.S. Attorney William Hochul.
The man who authored the new bill was New York Senator Charles Schumer, who had warned again and again that the problem was growing.
“In 2009, poison control centers reported only 13 calls regarding these types of products. In 2010, it was a thousand calls. Last year, 2011, it was 6,500 calls,” Schumer said.
Schumer convinced the Senate to okay the bill, along with action by the House. The final bill was signed less than three weeks ago, although the various investigations, nationwide, have been underway for months.
The full extent of the DEA action may not be clear until authorities hold a press briefing on the nationwide operation. That is expected on Thursday afternoon.
What is clear is that the DEA wanted to make it clear that in an ongoing race to beat new drug formulas, there are new rules in place.