Deputies: Lonoke County tobacco stores allegedly sell fake pot

    6:03 PM, Apr 4, 2012   |    comments
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    • The Tobacco Store in Cabot
    • Discount Tobacco in Ward
    • Up in Smoke in Austin

    Lonoke Co., Ark. (KTHV) -- It's being called one of the biggest synthetic marijuana busts the county has seen in years. Wednesday, Lonoke County officials, along with several other law enforcement agencies, simultaneously issued three search warrants.

    It's an investigation that began in August of last year. Officials with the Lonoke County Sheriff's department say it truly was a team effort. Arkansas State Police, Cabot and Austin Police, the Arkansas Tobacco Control Board and central Arkansas Drug Task Force officials, partnered up to carry out the investigation.

     Wednesday morning, they carried boxes and bags of drug paraphernalia out of the Alford Tobacco Store in Cabot.

    "We executed search warrants to locate and seize the synthetic marijuana and potpourri that they're selling out of the locations," says Sgt. Branden Hampton with the Lonoke County Sheriff's Department.

    It was a similar site at two other stores, Ward Tobacco Shop and "Up in Smoke" in Austin.

    Sgt. Hampton says the investigation started out of concern for young people's health.

    "The investigation started in august after numerous complaints from citizens of young adults having seizures and major medical problems from ingesting the substance," Hampton says.

    "We had a young man that ended up at Children's from smoking this," adds Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham.

    Graham says these stores were selling large amounts of synthetic marijuana.

    "They were doing lots of business with lots of money going through there. In fact, one of the stores initial that I'm getting right now did 12-thousand dollars per day," says Graham.

    Graham says while no arrests have been made at this time, the store owners' actions are still illegal.

    "Everybody tries to put it in different categories; it is treated just like marijuana. Our state legislators have specifically said 'hey there [are] certain components that are in there.' And they've said those are illegal. They've also said any similar compound or substance," Graham explains.

    As for the future of the investigation, Graham says -

    "We'll see where it goes from here. If there's any stores that are selling this product, and I'm only responsible for Lonoke County, they need to stop."

    "The investigation will continue the problem is taken care of," adds Hampton.

    Graham adds that each warrant was issued safely and effectively Wednesday morning.

    There were at least one or two employees present when officials arrived and each store cooperated with the search.

    State police led the efforts in today's search and the other agencies divided up their personnel to assist at each location.


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