MIAMI (CBS4) – It’s a first of its’ kind bust in Florida — Drug Enforcement Agents taking down a South Florida man suspected of distributing fake pot.
Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami said Joel Lester, 52, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute synthetic marijuana.
Drug Enforcement Agents say they found bags and boxes of fake pot — with catchy names like Mr. Nice Guy Mango, Mr. Nice Guy Strawberry and Blueberry Afterlife — when they busted Lester.
Federal prosecutors say Lester sold fake pot to convenience stores and gas stations which then sold it to the public.
Mark Trouville, the Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Miami Field Division, said the case against Lester signifies a new front in the fight against illegal drugs.
This is a significant case for us,” Trouville said. “It’s the first federal prosecution of synthetic marijuana investigations. The DEA is going to aggressively pursue this.”
Trouville said the makers and sellers of synthetic marijuana are crafty at keeping their products on store shelves. Even though the DEA and state legislators have banned many ingredients in fake pot, authorities say the makers have slightly altered the recipe to keep it legal. Trouville said that’s what makes fake pot so dangerous.
“These are cousins of THC which is the active ingredient in marijuana and the potency is absolutely uncontrolled,” Trouville explained. “Some of the chemists who are doing this don’t even understand themselves how powerful this stuff is.”
And it has led to serious injuries and even death. Just ask Gail Beard of Sunrise. Her son Sean nearly died when his kidneys failed after smoking fake pot.
“It needs to be stopped,” Beard told CBS 4′s Carey Codd. “It really does. The quicker that we get these places shut down and find out who these people are the better off we’re going to be.”
The bottom line — says the DEA — if you use fake pot you don’t know what you’re putting in your body.
“What may be something that got you high on one day, the same package two weeks from then could kill you,” Trouville warned.
Federal prosecutors say Joel Lester will be sentenced in August. He could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1-million dollars.