KINGSPORT — The owner of a Kingsport smoke shop has been charged by police with possessing and distributing products that contain chemicals banned in the state of Tennessee.
Jason Catoe, 22, of 186 Sherfey Road, Jonesborough, was cited and released on the misdemeanor charges Tuesday evening.
Kingsport police report undercover operations conducted at Catoe’s store, Ultimate Smoke, 2307 E. Center St., have resulted in the purchase of numerous packages of K2 and bath salts over the past several months.
One of those brands, labeled “Mad Hatter,” later tested positive for substances banned by the state of Tennessee in 2011, prompting the charges. Kingsport Police Department investigators report making four separate purchases of that specific product, with the packages weighing 1.5 grams each.
Police say the delay in charges is due to the demands on testing at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab.
Despite Tennessee’s ban on certain chemicals such as the ones allegedly found in “Mad Hatter” at Ultimate Smoke, manufacturers of synthetic drugs have tweaked their ingredients to skirt around state laws. Many of those new formulas — which produce the same intoxicating, and according to police and health officials, dangerous effects — are still allegedly being sold throughout the region.
Since last Friday, protesters have rallied outside Catoe’s shop off and on, holding up signs such as “Fake drugs kill!”
Kingsport police have also stepped up their presence in the immediate vicinity, posting a mobile command unit directly across from the store and establishing a KPD substation in an empty property directly above it.
Kingsport Police Chief Gale Osborne said the operations would continue as long as needed in the area, which has experienced a surge in crime and disturbances.
Catoe is scheduled to be arraigned today in a Kingsport court.