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A national crackdown on "designer" drugs includes arrests in Michigan


Michigan is part of a big national crackdown on illegal synthetic drug trafficking.

This week, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies arrested more than 150 people in more than two dozen states on charges they imported and sold illegal synthetic drugs. More than 20 of those arrests took place in southeast Michigan.

Synthetic drugs can mimic the effects of marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs.

Khaalid Walls is a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Detroit. Walls says these "designer" drug sales are starting to rival cocaine and heroin.

“In some regions of the country, it’s probably more of a problem than some of those traditional illegal narcotics,” says Walls.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been cracking down on the drugs, including so-called bath salts, spice and Molly, since they first gained widespread popularity years ago. In late 2010,the government moved to ban five chemicals that were used to make synthetic marijuana blends. But drug makers have modified their formulas and developed new chemical mixtures.

There's increasing concern about where the money spent on those drugs is going, and whether it's being used by criminal and terrorist groups in the Middle East. Investigators say they've tracked hundreds of millions of dollars in drug proceeds being sent to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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