That posed an enormous problem for XYZ Widgets. Bowman, the president, was sitting on 600 pounds of pure, unadulterated JWH-018 and soon-to-be-criminal herbal incense. While he panicked about how to dump the merchandise, Wright and Siegel, his trusted lawyers from day one, were as cool as ever.

"The legal way to get rid of something is to drive it to the police station and let it be disposed of by them," Siegel explains. So the night before the federal ban kicked into effect, the attorneys loaded up Wright's Ford Explorer with $250,000 worth of cannabinoids and incense and drove directly to the Boca Raton Police Department. "We brought it to the front door. A lieutenant came out... and we tried to explain that this stuff was going to be illegal. And not one person in the entire building knew what we were talking about."

Brash and good for the TV cameras that showed up, the stunt didn't mean that XYZ Widgets was throwing in the towel. The company began using AM-2201, another synthetic cannabinoid that many assumed was legal under the DEA's emergency orders.

Attorneys Spencer Siegel and Thomas Wright get ready to turn over $250,000 worth of herbal incense on behalf of a client.
Courtesy of Siegel Siegel & Wright Law Firm
Attorneys Spencer Siegel and Thomas Wright get ready to turn over $250,000 worth of herbal incense on behalf of a client.
Dylan Harrison, cofounder of Mr. Nice Guy, is scheduled to be arraigned September 24.
Dylan Harrison, cofounder of Mr. Nice Guy, is scheduled to be arraigned September 24.

AM-2201 then became the poster chemical for anyone in the business, including Mr. Nice Guy. Once again, the feds were in the position of playing chemical catchup. Wright and Siegel reveled in it. They became the go-to attorneys for the synthetic-pot business, landing clients across the country and helping them stay one step ahead of the law.

Today, they represent dozens of people in the herbal-incense trade, from California to New Hampshire, from elder biker-looking dudes to slack-jawed burnouts. Some are manufacturers, some are distributors, and others are retailers, including owners of head shops, gas stations, and corner stores.

Their firm even offers a special compliance and protection package. For $3,500, Siegel and Wright will do their damnedest to make sure all of a client's business practices are 100 percent legal. On the website,, that advertises the deal, the attorneys say, "The more information we have, the better we are able to protect you. All your information, formulations, and business methods are held in strict confidence."

Siegel and Wright often act as liaison between their clients and private laboratories. The lawyers will have their clients send incense samples to a lab, which runs tests to determine the specific cannabinoids that are showing up in the product. "Then we can issue an opinion as to whether or not that was legal in the jurisdiction where you are or where you want to sell," Siegel says.

If the lab tests show a problem — say, the cannabinoid was recently banned in a particular state or actually turned out to be a powerful hallucinogenic known as 2C-E — Siegel and Wright alert and advise.

Whenever a state or city bans another chemical, Wright and Siegel notify their clients, providing time to rid the banned substance from store shelves and factories, swap in a legal cannabinoid, and return to business as usual.

Wright says the primary purpose of herbal incense is to be used as incense — not as a drug. "If you take blueberry incense and burn it on a hot plate, boy, does it smell a lot like blueberry. It does exactly what it's supposed to do." Still, he advises his clients to be sure all products are stamped with the "Not for Human Consumption" warning because "you can't predict or anticipate misuse of a product."

Some of the public outrage is misguided, he says — like Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus's assertion that synthetic pot puts holes in the brain, a statement that still makes Wright chuckle.

"You have no scientific research whatsoever, really, that backs up that incense, even if it's misused, is dangerous... We heard it all: 'Smoke it and you'll turn into a 400-pound mountain gorilla that rapes poodles,'" Wright says. "I personally don't think anybody should ever smoke this stuff. I think anybody who is going to put this stuff in their body is taking a huge risk. But because we don't know that exact risk, why do we necessarily have to outlaw it?"

The downfall of Mr. Nice Guy began New Year's Day 2012 — in West Virginia. Local police there who were working with the DEA stormed a handful of convenience stores for allegedly violating the DEA's emergency orders. The feds weren't surprised to find packets of Mr. Nice Guy at these retail outlets, but they were intrigued by invoices showing the products were being purchased from a guy in Florida named Joel Lester.

On January 23, three weeks after the West Virginia raids, Lester, the 53-year-old proprietor of a business called Nature & Health in Boca Raton, received a call from a storeowner who said he was interested in selling herbal-incense products. He'd heard that Lester was one of the biggest Mr. Nice Guy distributors and stocked enough at his store to sell 50 or 100 or 1,000 bags in a single transaction. Peppered with questions, Lester explained to the caller that people can smoke incense from a hookah pipe to get stoned.

Three days after the phone call, Lester met the man face-to-face in West Palm Beach to close the sale. Lester told the naive storeowner to think of Mr. Nice Guy as legal pot that wouldn't show up on a drug test. He rambled about how people could smoke it and eat it and said he once got "really stoned" from chewing some herbal incense. Then he brought up Relaxinol, a flavor of Mr. Nice Guy that Lester boasted would give users hallucinations.

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My Voice Nation Help

I'm all for legalization of marijuana, but I don't think there's anything wrong with herbal incense either. I've been smoking herbal incense from and I haven't had any problems. I think that this story is bogus.


Legalize marijuana so people don't have to smoke this crap.

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