Dangerous chemicals seized at Ascension retail outlets

Wade McIntyre
The Ascension Sheriff’s Office seized around $32,000 in retail drugs after they were placed on the Controlled Dangerous Substance Act last week.

The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office began moving dangerous chemicals marketed as “bath salts” or “plant food” off the shelves of parish convenience stores Friday.

Sheriff Jeff Wiley said his office seized the products from 14 parish stores selling them after Gov. Bobby Jindal joined the Department of Health and Hospitals on Thursday announcing that the chemicals were placed on the Controlled Dangerous Substance Act.

It’s now illegal to possess, manufacture of distribute the products in the state.

Wiley said authorities were aware of the sale of the drugs in Ascension before Thursday, but until then, they could legally be sold.

A week before the drugs were made illegal, Ascension Parish Chief Deputy Tony Bacala said officers identified the area stores selling the products on their shelves.

As of Friday, Bacala said about 1,579 packages with a total retail value of $32,000 or more were seized. He said sellers usually pay about $8 per package for the products.

The drugs are marketed under names such as Cloud-9, White Lightening, Scarface, White Dove, Hurricane Charlie and others. Often manufactured in China and India, and sold in individual bags online or in convenience stores, they are already banned in the United Kingdom and other countries.

Until they were taken off the market, Bacala said the drugs “wreaked havoc in our community.” He said the drugs were readily available, legal and powerful.

During about a 2-week period before the drugs were outlawed, Bacala said authorities encountered a sudden tidal wave of incidents.  They started hearing of reports from around the state from poison control centers and overwhelmed hospital ER’s. Then, locally, they began hearing from alarmed parents.

Det. Lt. Craig Beaman of the sheriff’s office welcomed the authority to take the dangerous drugs off the market.

"Users snort it most commonly,” Beaman said. “The high will last for several hours, then paranoia sets in while you’re on the high.”

He said users of the drugs have been treated for extreme paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, hypertension and more.

“The world of Cloud Nine changed Thursday,” Beaman said. “Now, its illegal, a Schedule I drug.”

A total of six chemicals in the products sold over the counters in Louisiana until Thursday have been added to the Schedule I list. Now they carry distribution and manufacturing penalties similar to heroin, with a possible 30-year prison sentence.

The governor’s office said Louisiana had received 165 calls  in the state for crises associated with the drugs since September 2010. The state received 57 percent of all the calls recorded nationwide, and more than seven times as many calls as Kentucky which ranked second in the highest number of calls received.

Six chemicals in the retail drugs are now outlawed.