Six Lake County businesses are accused of selling illegal synthetic marijuana as a result of an undercover operation that received assistance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, authorities announced Thursday.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said his office's newly formed special investigations unit, along with DEA agents, worked the undercover probe. Authorities said about $103,200 was seized from the six stores, along with the phony pot, six grams of real marijuana, four grams of heroin, drug paraphernalia, four semiautomatic pistols and two vehicles.
"The cash that we seized obviously is significant and it's a great deterrent," Curran said at a news conference.
Curran said state forfeiture laws allowed authorities to seize what he called "commingled" money from the businesses when the Operation Log Jam busts occurred. That means cash received from legal sales and illicit means was taken from the retailers by authorities as evidence for the cases.
DEA agents and the sheriff's special investigations unit executed six search warrants and made one controlled buy at the grocery, tobacco and liquor stores for the operation. They went to businesses from May 31 through July 25.
Curran said the Lake County Board will address the stores' business licenses at some point. The following are the businesses where authorities said the fake pot was found: Waukegan Liquors, 2827 Belvidere Road, Waukegan; Gages Lake Food and Liquor, 18495 W. Old Gages Lake Road in Gages Lake; Discount Tobacco, 816 E. Grand Ave., Fox Lake; Ma and Pa's Grocery, 37737 Green Bay Road, Beach Park; 41 News, 41440 Route 41, Wadsworth; Glen Rock Liquor and Mini-Mart, 834 Glen Rock Ave., Waukegan.
Under a state law effective since January, a wider net was cast in an effort to prohibit all compounds sold over the counter that often are smoked by users to get the same high as marijuana. State lawmakers previously tried to ban fake marijuana sold as potpourri and called K2, K4 or "spice," but manufacturers changed the chemical compounds to make the products legal again. Bogus weed sold under the brand names Kush and Maui Wowie Premium Blend was on display Thursday at sheriff's police headquarters.
Officials said confirmation that the Operation Log Jam material was synthetic marijuana came through testing at the Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Laboratory in Vernon Hills.
Garth Glassburg, the lab's executive director, said law enforcement must remain vigilant because hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of the fake pot can be put on the street at any time.
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