The owner of a Bakersfield, Calif., smoke shop faces federal charges after a huge bust in which 1,000 lbs. of bath salts, spice and other designer synthetic drugs were seized from his property, along with $2.7 million in cash.
Bakersfield Now reports that Michael Kamar, 51, faces charges stemming from his alleged distribution of synthetic controlled substances. The drugs were seized from a warehouse and smoke shop called Havana House, which is owned by Kamar.
Federal authorities said the drugs taken in the bust included synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones -- designer drugs known by names like "spice" and "bath salts" respectively.
Synthetic cannabinoids mimic the effects of marijuana but are more potent and dangerous. Synthetic cathinones are "composed of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine" that have been linked to dangerous hallucinations and violent episodes.
According to the Associated Press, synthetic drugs such as these have been difficult for authorities to regulate since their formulas are constantly changing. However, a landmark conviction in October may have provided a blueprint for the prosecution of the sale of designer synthetics.
A ban on designer synthetics was enacted last year, according to TIME.
Drug Enforcement Agency officials said the bust was part of a broader action known as Operation Synergy, which began in December and targeted "retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers" of synthetic drugs across 35 states.
A DEA statement obtained by KBFX called it the "largest ever" synthetic drug takedown, and noted that "these investigations have uncovered the massive flow of drug-related proceeds back to countries in the Middle East and elsewhere."
If convicted, Kamar faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.