Despite a federal grand jury indictment and repeated efforts by local law enforcement to shut it down, an Eldon business continues to break the law by selling synthetic drugs closely related chemically to marijuana, according to Miller County Prosecutor Matt Howard. So, Howard intends to have the store declared a "nuisance" under the law and close its doors for at least one year.
Puff n Snuff on Business Highway 54 in Eldon, accoring to Howard, has been selling synthetic marijuana for a long time, even though no criminal convictions have ever been handed down. A federal grand jury indictment was issued in October and an investigation by the Eldon Police Department is underway, according to Howard, but the store remains open.
So Howard is going to attempt to have the building declared a "nuisance" and shut down for a full year. He says a building can be declared a nuisance if a judge deems it a danger or health hazard to the public.
At issue are the synthetic cannabinoids which are made by underground chemists to closely resemble marijuana chemically. Known commonly as K-2, spice, or fake, the drugs often mimic marijuana, but some variations cause health problems or negatively affect mental function.
Howard says he has seen some instances of people going to emergency rooms suffering from "overdose type" symptoms.
The problem, according to Howard, is that of definition: federal law defines each individual drug that it deems illegal and prosecutes accordingly. But, state law has not defined every specific chemical combination that can be used to produce the synthetics, so when one is defined as illegal, the chemists make a slight adjustment in the formula in order to stay one step ahead of the law.
So, Missouri has made more general laws, which prohibit "imitation" controlled substances, which are defined more subjectively. For instance, if a seller tells someone that smoking a synthetic is "just like" or "better than" smoking marijuana, it can be construed as an imitation. In this way, prosecutors can go after manufacturers and sellers without having to prove a specific chemical fingerprint.
While Howard says he's confident the current investigation by the Eldon Police Department will result in criminal charges, he wants the store shut now. "Not even federal prosecution has deterred this ongoing problem, and we are not going to wait any longer," he said.
One store owner said he plans to reopen Wednesday.