"On day two, we even got a couple of calls from clients who were essentially 'trapped' in their place of business. What I mean is they were in the process of packing up products to have them destroyed or to turn over to law enforcement," he says. "They realized from the news that the DEA was arresting people, and they wanted to dispose of products that were now being considered illegal. There was no opportunity for them to even turn things into law enforcement if they wanted to... The products may have been unpopular, but there was never any intent to break the law."

Now, as the Mr. Nice Guy cases wind their way through court, some experts say Shealy and Harrison were not in fact breaking the law. In the months leading up to the raid, the men changed their cannabinoid formulation to two chemicals known as UR-144 and 5-fluoro-ur-144. The DEA contends that these chemicals are analogs of JWH-018 that were meant for human consumption and thus are illegal under the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012.

Not everyone agrees, including Kevin Shanks, the expert toxicologist whose company has been contracted by law enforcement agencies over the years for herbal-incense examinations.

Attorneys Spencer Siegel and Thomas Wright get ready to turn over $250,000 worth of herbal incense on behalf of a client.
Courtesy of Siegel Siegel & Wright Law Firm
Attorneys Spencer Siegel and Thomas Wright get ready to turn over $250,000 worth of herbal incense on behalf of a client.
Dylan Harrison, cofounder of Mr. Nice Guy, is scheduled to be arraigned September 24.
Dylan Harrison, cofounder of Mr. Nice Guy, is scheduled to be arraigned September 24.

"UR-144 is one of those compounds that is enough structurally different that it would be very, very difficult to prosecute somebody on an analog law," he contends. "If someone is trying to make the case that UR-144 was chemically similar or substantially similar to JWH-018 or AM-2201 or any of the banned compounds, I would think that would be a very difficult task.

"Essentially on 144, they completely change out one subset of the molecule and completely replace it with another chemical group. This isn't a minor change... UR-144 is not going to give you the altered perception, euphoria, impairment of motor skills, or anything like that."

Even if the charges related to controlled substances don't stick, Shealy and Harrison still have to explain why they rented warehouses under fake names and prove they reported every dollar made on their synthetic venture to the IRS. The men are also facing a civil suit from a stone-refinishing shop that occupied the space next to the warehouse bay that exploded. Damages from the blast are in excess of $1 million, according to court documents.

Harrison's and Shealy's arraignments are scheduled for September 24. It's unclear how the men will plead.


Still taped to the door of the raided warehouse is a bright-red piece of paper proclaiming, "WARNING. A clandestine laboratory for the manufacture of illegal drugs and/or hazardous chemicals was seized at this location... There still may be hazardous substances or waste products on this property, either in the building or in the ground itself. Please exercise caution while on these premises."

Until the legality of herbal incense is clarified in the courts, Siegel and Wright are advising clients to cease production, sales, and distribution and to generally stay away from herbal incense. Their longtime client Jeffrey Bowman, president of XYZ Widgets, dissolved his company just three days before Operation Log Jam. Joel Lester, who snitched on Mr. Nice Guy, pleaded guilty to federal distribution charges but served only a few months in prison on a plea deal.

On a near-daily basis, Wright still gets calls from people around the country looking to make and sell incense products. He explains that it's a terrible idea and says they're asking to get arrested. But for many, the temptation of raking in big bucks from cheap synthetic highs is too great. Although herbal incenses are hard to find nowadays, products are for sale online and at unscrupulous shops.

"You can never resolve this kind of problem by taking away the product," Wright says. "The only way you resolve it is by taking away the desire or treating the desire. There's always something else out there. Seriously."

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3 comments
gabeeslinger284
gabeeslinger284

I am a recovering synthetic cannabinoid user. Although I had experienced bad reactions to the substance I continued to abuse it. I have had a seizure and black outs from smoking it. One reaction occurred from smoking Mango Mr. Nice Guy. I think the production and distribution of these substances it seriously out of control. Manufacturers don't realize the harm they are causing to the thousands of consumers that abuse their product. When I first smoked the synthetic cannabis it was a Spice brand. I didn't find the affects to be bad at all, in fact I found them to be euphoric and relaxing, similar to marijuana, but a much shorter high. Keep in mind this was several years ago when JWH-18 was still legal. I refrained from smoking K2 often because I was still leery of the stuff. About a year later after JWH-18 was made an illegal substance, I tried a brand called "Diablo" I noticed how much more intense the effects were, one of my friends was actually freaking out and we had to help her walk. Then after another year passed I tried some Mango Mr. Nice Guy. After one hit of it I started feeling the effects, I started hallucinating and losing conciousness. About fifteen seconds later I blacked out, my friends told me I fell over without trying to catch myself and started convulsing. I told myself I would never smoke k2 again. Another 8 months pass or so, one of my friends talks me into smoking Syn Chill. Not bad, very mellow. I start smoking Devils Advocate brand k2 regularly, I slow down and don't really smoke it much anymore. Then one day I'm at my friends sisters house and she offers a bowl of k2, not knowing what kind it is I take a hit. After about five minutes I feel pretty high, I take one more hit and decide to leave and meet a friend at the local gas station. I feel very hot walking up the stairs, and my vision blurs. I manage to open the front door to leave and I black out. I end up falling right out the door and onto the concrete steps. I come to probably about 10 seconds later to her daughter asking me what happened, I ask if I'm bleeding and feel my face. Seems as if my face has caught my fall. I do believe the manufactuerers are to blame for this monstrosity, but because the drugs used in the earlier generations were outlawed, they started using different, more dangerous substances. I find k2 to be very dangerous these days, and I hope it can soon be controlled so nobody else gets hurt, especially experimental teens, it could ruin their future.

loryder
loryder

If natural marijuana were legal or decriminalized, there would be absolutely no market whatsoever for the fake stuff.

teknik
teknik

one of the problems with the drug war, the drugs just get nastier and nastier!

 
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