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Two Sides to the Story

A recent crackdown on synthetic drugs, often sold as incense, shows two sides to the problem of drugs in the US. One the one hand, we have a nationwide sweep (35 states, 75 arrests) meant to clean up a gray area – retails selling once legal “bath salts” and synthetic drugs. On the other, we have the sometimes sad story of someone caught up in the mix who we feel might deserve a break.

The synthetic drugs are illegal in Nebraska. They use chemicals sprayed on dried “vegetable matter” that imitates the look of marijuana, but they contain no weed. Instead, they contain any of a number of compounds designed to get users high without triggering a positive on a drug test.

Two years ago, the owner of Exotica in Sioux City, NB, for selling a synthetic marijuana. The Sioux City Journal reported that Frank Firoz, a 70-year-old, has now pleaded guilty – but not quite.

Firoz has entered what is called a “Alford plea.” This is a kind of no-contest plea where the defendant asserts they are innocent of the crime, but still want to face the penalty. With only a decade or two left to him, Firoz was facing a possible 15 year prison sentence. By pleading out, a guilty plea is entered in the court records and he will get a suspended sentence from the prosecutor’s office. But this plea doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing, something which may be essential if Firoz has to fend off civil suits arising from the sale of the synthetic drugs.

The sale of synthetic marijuana wasn’t the only issue in play. His store also sold pipes that, while marketed as being for tobacco, find use in smoking marijuana as well.

The Journal also reports that Firoz may not be off the hook yet. Federal charges may still be brought, since synthetics are also illegal under an emergency FDA ruling.

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