Despite a ban, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of synthetic drugs and related paraphernalia were sitting on store shelves, authorities said Thursday.
During a news conference at the Berks County Detectives office, state police said they believe a bust in Berks, Schuylkill and Centre counties is the first major bust of synthetic drugs since the substances were first outlawed in Pennsylvania last year.
Synthetic marijuana, bath salts, drug paraphernalia and $2,000 in cash were seized from Nirvana's Closet on Rockland Street in Reading on Wednesday.
"The average retail value of the synthetic drugs that were seized during this raid was over half-a-million dollars," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams.
Nirvana's Closet in Reading was closed for business Thursday. The store is one of six businesses across the three counties simultaneously raided by state police Wednesday.
The raid was initiated by state police in Schuylkill County and included stores at the Schuylkill Mall and the Fairlane Village Mall, near Pottsville.
Authorities said the items they recovered are some of the hottest drugs on the street, and they're not only illegal, but deadly.
"Almost all of these packages state not for human consumption," said Adams.
The drugs mimic the effects of cocaine and methamphetamine. In Berks County alone, Adams said two people were killed recently because of synthetic drug-related shootings.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill banning synthetic drugs in June. It took effect two months later.
Ever since Corbett enacted the law, Adams said it's been his goal to eliminate the drugs being sold in stores and trafficked in our area.
"The chemicals found within these drugs are very powerful and can have life-threatening consequences for users," said Adams.
Police said the owner of the store in Berks is 47-year-old John Okeefe, who also owns three other stores that were raided.
Authorities said no charges have been filed, but the investigation is ongoing.