Local tobacco shops targets of drug raid

Two local tobacco shops were raided Tuesday by Champaign police as part of a statewide campaign against illegal synthetic drugs.

More than $55,000 worth of synthetic drugs were taken from these two shops. In addition to the local shops, Bloomington-Normal businesses were also raided that day — more than 6,000 packages of products with a street value of approximately $110,000 were confiscated from Bloomington-Normal and Champaign.

The businesses affected in Champaign were Global Tobacco and Smoke Shack. A total of 873 packs of synthetic material were taken from Global Tobacco, with a street value of about $13,000, and 1,811 packs were taken from Smoke Shack, with a street value of about $44,000.

These raids were all part of “Operation Smoked Out,” a project from the Attorney General’s office aimed at removing these synthetic drugs from Illinois stores. Ingredients found in the drugs were made illegal in January.

As a complement to that law, Attorney General Lisa Madigan is also proposing legislation that would define synthetic drugs and ban their use as well as increase the penalties for selling them.

After holding an emergency summit on synthetic drugs in November, Madigan has turned to store sweeps this year. Since then, law enforcement agencies in Illinois have prioritized searches and raids in order to eliminate the mass distribution and consumption of the drugs.

“Bloomington, Normal and Champaign have significant numbers of college students who have been enticed to purchase and use these illegal and dangerous products,” Madigan said in the press release. “Retailers in these college towns should be aware that law enforcement will soon be walking through their front door to ensure that these dangerous, illegal drugs are not for sale.”

Synthetic drugs tend to contain chemical compounds that mimic effects similar as those created from taking cocaine or methamphetamine. According to a press release, poison control centers nationwide received almost 3,000 calls related to synthetic marijuana use in 2010; that number jumped to nearly 7,000 calls last year.

In the press release, Champaign police Chief Anthony Cobb said he was thankful for the support from other law enforcement agencies in combating the drug.

“With these businesses sitting in the heart of our campus community, keeping our teens and students safe is a priority for our department,” Cobb said in the statement.

Steve Mag, manager of Global Tobacco, said the raid caught him off guard. He said shortly after opening the store on Tuesday, police arrived and quickly took off with the confiscated material.

“They just came over and took the stuff,” Mag said. “They told me ‘the products are not illegal, but you cannot sell them anymore.’”

Managerial staff at Smoke Shack were unavailable for comment at the time of press.