"On day two, we even got a couple of calls from clients who were essentially 'trapped' in their place of business. What I mean is they were in the process of packing up products to have them destroyed or to turn over to law enforcement," he says. "They realized from the news that the DEA was arresting people, and they wanted to dispose of products that were now being considered illegal. There was no opportunity for them to even turn things into law enforcement if they wanted to... The products may have been unpopular, but there was never any intent to break the law."

Now, as the Mr. Nice Guy cases wind their way through court, some experts say Shealy and Harrison were not in fact breaking the law. In the months leading up to the raid, the men changed their cannabinoid formulation to two chemicals known as UR-144 and 5-fluoro-ur-144. The DEA contends these chemicals are analogs of JWH-018 that were meant for human consumption and thus are illegal under the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012.

Not everyone agrees, including Kevin Shanks, the expert toxicologist whose company has been contracted by law enforcement agencies over the years for herbal-incense examinations.

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.

"UR-144 is one of those compounds that is enough structurally different that it would be very, very difficult to prosecute somebody on an analog law," he contends. "If someone is trying to make the case that UR-144 was chemically similar or substantially similar to JWH-018 or AM-2201 or any of the banned compounds, I would think that would be a very difficult task.

"Essentially on 144, they completely change out one subset of the molecule and completely replace it with another chemical group. This isn't a minor change... UR-144 is not going to give you the altered perception, euphoria, impairment of motor skills, or anything like that."

Even if the charges related to controlled substances don't stick, Shealy and Harrison still have to explain why they rented warehouses under fake names and prove they reported every dollar made on their synthetic venture to the IRS. The men are also facing a civil suit from a stone-refinishing shop that occupied the space next to the warehouse bay that exploded. Damages from the blast are in excess of $1 million, according to court documents.

Harrison's and Shealy's arraignments are scheduled for September 24. It's unclear how the men will plead.


Still taped to the door of the raided warehouse is a bright-red piece of paper proclaiming, "WARNING. A clandestine laboratory for the manufacture of illegal drugs and/or hazardous chemicals was seized at this location... There still may be hazardous substances or waste products on this property, either in the building or in the ground itself. Please exercise caution while on these premises."

Until the legality of herbal incense is clarified in the courts, Siegel and Wright are advising clients to cease production, sales, and distribution and to generally stay away from herbal incense. Their longtime client Jeffrey Bowman, president of XYZ Widgets, dissolved his company just three days before Operation Log Jam. Joel Lester, who snitched on Mr. Nice Guy, pleaded guilty to federal distribution charges but served only a few months in prison on a plea deal.

On a near-daily basis, Wright still gets calls from people around the country looking to make and sell incense products. He explains it's a terrible idea and says they're asking to get arrested. But for many, the temptation of raking in big bucks from cheap synthetic highs is too great. Although herbal incenses are hard to find nowadays, products are for sale online and at unscrupulous shops.

"You can never resolve this kind of problem by taking away the product," Wright says. "The only way you resolve it is by taking away the desire or treating the desire. There's always something else out there. Seriously."

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3 comments
shannonfisher89
shannonfisher89

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  http://www.smokingblendreviews.com/ and I haven't had any problems. I think that this story is bogus.

 
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