FRANKFORT — Area law enforcement agencies announced a crackdown Friday on chemical compounds sold as "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana, substances police said can produce hallucinations and violent, aggressive outbursts.
Five people at five different Frankfort stores were charged with misdemeanor offenses of the sale or transfer of simulated controlled substances.
The substances posed "a significant threat to public health and public safety," Frankfort Police Chief Walter Wilhoite said. "This will not be something we allow in Franklin County." The warrants were issued after an investigation involving surveillance and controlled buys at the businesses, city police said.
The bath salts and synthetic marijuana can, in some instances, cause hallucinations and turn otherwise docile people violent, said Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton.
Melton and others said during a press conference Friday that there were more reports over the Christmas and New Year's holidays of people using the substances and having violent reactions to them.
The case that received the most attention was that of Edward Craine, 35, of Lexington, who was discharged Dec. 21 from Frankfort Regional Medical Center after overdosing on bath salts. He came back to the hospital and fell through some ceiling tiles wearing nothing but his underwear, Frankfort police said.
Craine was charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication and criminal mischief.
Other users have been showing up more often in hospitals and emergency rooms around the state.
In March, Gov. Steve Beshear signed a new state law to ban synthetic drugs that are often falsely marketed as bath salts. A similar ban on synthetic marijuana became law in 2010.
But Franklin County Attorney Rick Sparks said he advised police to charge those arrested Friday with a more general 1992 law prohibiting the sale of simulated substances. Charging individuals with the more general law eliminates loopholes that might allow charges to be dismissed, Sparks said.
The manager of Discount Tobacco on East Main Street, one of the stores at which someone was charged, said his store sold products labeled "herbal essence," and he said the merchandise is legal.
"We know everything is legal," he said. The manager would not give his name.
Nevertheless, the offending businesses were given letters signed by Sparks advising them of the dangers of the substances and the laws prohibiting them.
"Your business establishment stands to have your license(s) revoked," the letters said.
In addition, uniformed officers will deliver educational materials about the simulated controlled substances to other Frankfort-area businesses, Frankfort Police Maj. Fred Deaton said.
Frankfort police said the individuals charged Friday with the sale or transfer of a simulated controlled substance, first offense, were Beverly Downs, 27, of Frankfort at Discount Tobacco, 671 East Main; Ankit Paudel, 22, of Frankfort at the BP at 108 Sea Hero Road; Faisal Shah, 30, of Lexington, at Speedy Mart, 682 East Main; Feroz Shaik, 35, of Frankfort, at Valero gas station, 1009 Holmes St; and Ali Kashif, 35, of Frankfort, Speedy Mart at 146 Holmes St.
If convicted, those charged could face up to a year in jail, a $500 fine or both.