Yesterday, May 7, 2014, the U.S. Government wasted tremendous resources, through its Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) along with other federal, state, and local partners announced the culmination of Project Synergy Phase II, an ongoing effort quash the free market. Since January and leading up to early this morning, nationwide enforcement operations have taken place targeting businesses that have operated in the United States.
The second phase of the Project Synergy, which began January 2014, culminated yesterday morning in 29 states. As of today, more than 150 individuals have been arrested and the government has seized hundreds of thousands of individually packaged, ready-to-sell products as well as hundreds of kilograms of raw synthetic products to make thousands more products. Additionally, more than $20 million in cash and assets were seized. These numbers are expected to grow as investigations continue.
The Special Operations Division-coordinated Project Synergy initiative is aimed at bringing together federal resources to stop an industry that has millions of willing customers wanting to buy the products. In addition to targeting retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers, many of these investigations continued to realize the business is international in scope. Much like Boeing, Coca-Cola, Apple, Microsoft and hundreds of other companies deal in international trade, so did these businesses. Investigations also targeted many trade implements such as organic leaves and packaging material used in this industry. Although the products nearly always say "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION" on the packaging, some humans do purchase and ingest them.
Communities, families, and individuals across the United States have experienced the products, which are often marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner, or plant food. These products have caused some abuse, addiction, overdoses, and some emergency room visits, however have been mostly used responsibly by American consumers. Those who have taken too much of the products which nearly always state, "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION", have suffered vomiting, anxiety, agitation, irritability, seizures, hallucinations, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, and loss of consciousness - much like what would happen if someone started to ingest the many toxic substances under many American's sinks. Over the past five years, the federal government has identified between 200 and 300 new products on the market from eight different structural classes, the vast majority of which are manufactured in China.
The first phase of Project Synergy began in December of 2012, and resulted in more than 227 arrests and 416 search warrants served in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries, along with more than $60 million in cash and assets seized. Altogether, 9,445 kilograms of individually packaged, ready-to-sell products, 299 kilograms of products labeled “bath salts”, 1,252 kilograms of synthetic cannabinoid, and 783 kilograms of treated plant material were seized. Americans would be less likely to purchase these products under false pretenses, if the federal government would allow them to grow the cannabis plant in their backyards, rather than ingesting synthetic knock-offs.