Longform

The Fake-Pot Industry Is Coming Down From a Three-Year High

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"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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Chris Sweeney