Deputies and drug task force members searched a Sequoyah County business Tuesday morning.
They began investigating the Outer Zone on Highway 64 in Moffett after undercover officers purchased synthetic marijuana at the store.
Investigators believe a major producer of the substance in California sold $700,000 worth of synthetic marijuana to the owner of the Outer Zone chain, Sheriff Ron Lockhart said.
“Synthetic drugs are one of the biggest problems we have right now,” the sheriff said. “It’s worse than marijuana and methamphetamine because they think they can smoke it and it`s legal.”
At least one person was arrested for distributing the drug at the Moffett business Tuesday. Deputies are still interviewing employees and searching the property.
“He actually told our agent when he bought it that ‘This will get you high,’” said Tony Evans, Sequoyah County assistant district attorney and director of the Drug Task Force for District 27.
The synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia were seized from the store, according to the sheriff. They also searched for bath salts which can be used as synthetic methamphetamine, Lockhart said.
The sheriff said the business will remain open for sales of other items. Even during the bust, customers filled the parking lot.
“They seem to be oblivious to the fact that there’s police vehicles in the parking lot, a large trailer that indicates that the Sheriff`s Office is here,” Evans said. “It’s clearly a common occurrence that people come in here to buy synthetic C.D.S. and we`re trying to shut that down.”
The sheriff’s office’s goal is to keep the dangerous substances off the streets and out of the reach of kids.
“Kids are using it. Adults are using it,” Sheriff Lockhart said. “We had a homicide the other day and we learned through that that they’d smoke synthetic. I don’t know if that
played a role in it, but dang sure ain’t helping things.”
A location in Tahlequah, Okla., is also being investigated by authorities there.
The Outer Zone recently opened a location in Pocola, Okla. However, a city ordinance prevents them from selling certain products, including synthetic marijuana, Pocola Police Chief Steve Howard said.
Chief Howard said at last check the business was in compliance with the ordinance.
Synthetic marijuana, often referred to as 'Spice' or 'K2', is an herbal mixture that is sold as "incense" and produces a reaction similar to smoking marijuana.
Shana Fitzsimmons from Sallisaw has seen the effects synthetic drugs can have on the people who use it.
"I've seen people smoke it. I've seen people seize up on the floor from it - be puking from it," she said. "It's stupid."
Those who abuse the drug may suffer rapid heart rate, vomiting and hallucinations, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It can also raise blood pressure and in few cases lead to heart attacks, the institute said.