Members of the Special Operations Division of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office raided three local businesses and a home in a synthetic pot sweep Thursday.
Elite Adult on Douglas Boulevard, Marley's Emporium on Thornton Road and Hell Yeah Novelties on Thornton Road were raided after undercover operatives made two buys of suspected synthetic marijuana at each location, according to Douglas County Sheriff Phil Miller. The Arbor Station home of Elite Adult owner Rickey Autrey was also searched and Miller said officials found a packaging operation.
"When we found a packaging operation at his home," Miller said. "It appears that he was putting the product together there and then taking it to the store to be sold."
Miller said the suspected drugs were already tested at the lab and it was confirm to be a Schedule I drug. He said officers with the Douglasville Police Department were also involved in executing the search warrants.
Autrey was arrested, according to DCSO Maj. Tommy Wheeler. He said law enforcement officials remained on the scenes into the evening Thursday. The exact amount of the drugs seized was still being calculated, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said that in addition to Autrey, Marley's Emporium owner Jonathan Thomas Asher Deaton, 25, of Villa Rica, Hell Yeah owner Jason T. Girvin, 39, of Lithia Springs and clerk Andrew Wayne Dewberry, 25, of Douglasville were also arrested. Initially the charges were listed as possession of a Schedule I or II drugs. Miller and Wheeler wouldn't rule out additional charges as the investigation continues.
Wheeler said that this was an operation that had been in the works for quite some time and the unstable nature and the fact that it is sold in such small amounts makes it very dangerous to those who use it.
"This is a very dangerous drug," Wheeler said. "You don't know what you are smoking or how it will react in your body. It can make you sick. It can put you in a coma, It can make you kill someone else and it can kill you. That's why keeping this stuff off the streets of Douglas County is something that we are all taking very seriously."
A Thursday evening visit to the stores showed that all were closed.
Georgia began a crackdown on synthetic drugs in 2012 after the death of of 16-year-old Chase Corbitt Burnett from Fayette County, who died shortly after experimenting with the drug.
In the 2012 session, the Legislature passed and Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Senate Bill 370, which outlaws the ingredients used to make synthetic marijuana and classifies them as Schedule I drugs.
The law means that even possessing synthetic marijuana is a felony. The prison sentence for possession of the substance ranges from one to 15 years. Distribution can carry even tougher penalties.