FOREST HILL, Md. -
On a stretch of Morse Road in a tucked away corner of Forest Hill, Harford County Sheriff's deputies searched a house for a possible illegal handgun, but they say they found a single marijuana plant and so much more.
"It was at that point that they found what they believed to be a large-scale manufacturing and distribution of spice operation,” said Cristie Kahler of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, “They were able to find everything from the vegetation to the chemicals used to produce this to the packaging to the sealing. A rough estimate is maybe a $2 million operation if sold at street value."
The unidentified suspect had used out-of-state vendors to supply the ingredients for the synthetic drugs, which may have had a national market---all under the very noses of longtime neighbors in this rural area.
"I find it disheartening, because we do have some young children in the area," said Sandra Jones.
"It's what's nice about it... a very country environment where people are away from urban living I guess,” added Tim DeHart, “but drugs or fake drugs or whatever could be anywhere. So does it surprise me? Yes, but no at the same time."
Packaged as incense and clearly marked as a substance that is not for human consumption, spice poses a challenge to police and the courts, alike.
It's often the grain alcohol, acetone or other substance mixed with the organic material which determines whether it's criminal.
"Where the question comes in is whether those additional additives are legal or illegal substances, and it seems as fast as the legislature can make the substance illegal, it's like changing an old family recipe. You can change one molecule and you now have a different substance that is, in fact, legal."
Investigators in Harford County have called in federal drug enforcement agents to determine whether an arrest will be forthcoming in this case, and the suspect remains at large in the meantime.
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