WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal drug agents have arrested hundreds of people across the country in the latest phase of a national crackdown on synthetic drug manufacturers, wholesalers and dealers, a senior federal law enforcement official said Thursday.
The official said the Drug Enforcement Administration and other state and federal agents arrested several hundred people in more than 20 states over the past 15 months in an operation that ended Thursday.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to publicly discuss the continuing operation.
Agents in Los Angeles and Bakersfield, California, seized about $500,000 in cash and more than 200 pounds of drugs, the official said.
The DEA has been cracking down on synthetic drugs, including bath salts, Spice and Molly, since the drugs gained widespread popularity years ago.
In late 2010, the agency responsible for enforcing federal drug laws moved to ban five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana blends, including K2, Spice and Blaze. Since then, drug manufacturers have continued to modify their formulas and develop new chemical mixtures.
Reports of synthetic marijuana products identified by local, state and federal drug labs have skyrocketed since 2009. That year, labs reported 23 cases. Last year there were roughly 37,500.