Three arrested in imitation drug bust

Pamela Jo White-Wood

Three Eldon residents are facing felony charges relating to the sale of imitation drugs as the Miller County Prosecutor attempts to shut down a local smoke shop he says is selling a synthetic version of marijuana.

58-year-old Kaye Barnhart, 48-year-old Robin Parker, and 47-year-old Pamela Jo White-Wood were arrested Tuesday while and shortly after Eldon Police officers served a search warrant on the Puff N Snuff smoke shop on Business Highway 54 in Eldon.

Parker and White-Wood are charged with sale of an imitation controlled substance. Barnhart is charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

Each of the counts is a felony and carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Puff n Snuff, according 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.