ASHTABULA -- Illegal, synthetic, dangerous -- and available at the mall?
Armed with a new state law, authorities bust an Ashtabula shop selling synthetic drugs to high school students.
It sounds like a dog treat, but instead authorities say "Scooby Snax," a potpourri laced with chemicals, is being rolled up and smoked.
"That's how they hide the ingredients until you do what we do, and do the investigation and found out that it is an illegal drug," said Sheriff William Johnson, of Ashtabula County.
Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Trumbull Ashtabula Group Task Force, and local agencies got a tip that the Blue Dragon, a shop offering air-brushed tee shirts and other items, was also selling a profitable synthetic marijuana, called a cannabinoid, from behind the counter.
"I was shocked, I really was shocked, because I've been in there and I've done business, I've never seen anything going on in there," said Elaine Spackman, who once worked at the mall. She told Channel 3 she bought clothes and some gift items there.
Now the shop is closed down. Owner Richard Leavitt and long-time employee David Nottingham are facing felony drug trafficking charges. They were both released on bond.
Johnson says the target customer for this product is high school students.
Dale Frye graduated from high school last year. "I just know that, that it was getting sold here, but never really thought much of it because it really didn't affect me," Frye said.
Frye says that, at school, he had heard of people using it.
Online the products retail for about $30. While the packages are marked "not for human consumption," the bright colors and fun graphics tell a different story. Commenters talk about the good high it gives.
"It's marketed towards children," said Johnson.
Now the law is catching up with the chemists. These synthetics and others, like bath salts, just became illegal in December.
While it's hard for law enforcement to stay ahead of these things, it's also difficult for parents.
Sheriff Johnson says you know your kids better than anyone else.
He recommends parents talk to their kids about these synthetic drugs, because while this is one of the first arrests of its kind in Northeast Ohio, there are likely other shops selling the same thing.