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Pennsylvania police raid stores in synthetic marijuana campaign

The Pennsylvania State Police conducted an aggressive operation against nearly a dozen small stores in the Pittsburgh area on July 25 in a search for synthetic marijuana. Authorities claim that the raided businesses were selling the synthetic drugs, which the state Legislature made a controlled substance in August 2011. They refused to disclose the location of the suspected stores or who has been arrested and charged as a result of the raids, but officers with the State Police were observed carrying out numerous items from the stores and expected to fill up a moving truck by the end of the raids.

The stores subject to the search warrants are described in media reports as gas stations, convenience stores and tobacco shops. Officers with the State Police worked with the State Drug Task Force in carrying out the operation. The stores are located in Allegheny and Washington counties.

Synthetic drugs like synthetic marijuana and the substance referred to as "bath salts" have been a big issue in Pennsylvania and other U.S. states. The drugs were not illegal when they first appeared in stores. However, many states, including Pennsylvania, have since passed legislation banning the drugs. Congress also passed a law earlier in July making a number of synthetic drugs controlled substances on the federal level.

However, not all bath salt products are covered under the state and federal statutes, creating a potential for confusion for store owners and police officers. This could mean that a store owner or employee could face criminal charges over a substance that is not illegal.

Authorities claim that they subjected the stores to two months of surveillance, so they are likely to contend that they were selling drugs covered by the new state law. It remains to be seen if the store owners, if charged, will make uncertainty over the law an issue at trial.

Source: KDKA-TV, "State Police Raid Local Businesses For Synthetic Drugs," Marty Griffin, July 25, 2012

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