An employee of Midnight Novelties in Blountville is handcuffed and escorted by police. David Grace photo.
A several month, multi-jurisdictional investigation into the sale of synthetic drugs came to a head on Wednesday morning, with police and federal authorities raiding locales throughout Northeast Tennessee.
At 11 a.m. the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office and DEA served search warrants at two head shops in the county. Simultaneously police in Johnson City were raiding a business on West Oakland Avenue
SCSO Sheriff Wayne Anderson confirmed the joint investigation and warrants target products containing ingredients banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration — allowing local police agencies to circumvent less encompassing bans on the state level.
"I don't know if this will put a stop to it, but it'll put a dent in it," said Anderson. He added the raids wouldn't have been possible without the DEA's ban and assistance from federal agents.
Sullivan County police expected to be collecting evidence from their searches — at Midnight Sky Novelties in Blountville and White Cloud Emporium in Bloomingdale — throughout the day.
Kingsport Deputy Police Chief David Quillin said Kingsport police assisted other agencies in their efforts on Wednesday, but no raids were conducted within the Model City. The DEA and KPD previously executed a search warrant at Ultimate Smoke, 2307 E. Center St., on March 2. At that time KPD Chief Gale Osborne said the investigation was looking at stores across the entire Tri-Cities area.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday Johnson City Police blocked the entrance of Cloud 9 Emporium, 411 West Oakland Avenue, as officers served search warrants at the business. Both Johnson City Police Chief John Lowry and Assistant United States Attorney Neil Smith declined to comment on Wednesday’s investigation.
"I can’t talk about this investigation specifically, but I can say that analogs of controlled substances and the number of these synthetic drugs sold under the name of bath salts and glass cleaner and that sort of thing have actually been emergency scheduled by the DEA, so they are Schedule I controlled substances just like LSD or marijuana or a number of other illegal drugs, and the people that sell them will be prosecuted the same way we prosecute other people that sell illegal drugs," Smith said.
More details on the string of raids are expected at a Thursday morning press conference at the Sullivan County Justice Center. A press release states Attorney General Barry Staubus and representatives from the DEA, along with department heads from several area law enforcement agencies, will be on hand.