1. News

Hillsborough deputies call in EPA and OSHA after inspecting synthetic marijuana

Synthetic marijuana is packaged in bright colors, a tactic Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry McKinnon says targets kids.
Synthetic marijuana is packaged in bright colors, a tactic Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry McKinnon says targets kids.
Published Apr. 5, 2012

TAMPA — An overwhelming chemical smell burned the eyes of inspectors Wednesday as they entered a warehouse to check on production of synthetic marijuana, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

The inspectors had come to take samples of the substance being processed at 6308 Benjamin Road, Suite 712, north of Tampa International Airport.

The sample would be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to see if it contains any of the 29 compounds outlawed by the Legislature in its attempts to prevent the possession and sale of synthetic drugs.

But during the inspection, high levels of concentrated acetone caused investigators to call the state Fire Marshal, Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to evaluate the safety of the warehouse and its more than a dozen employees.

Specific combinations of chemicals make up the synthetic drugs that are banned in Florida. No arrests were made at the warehouse Wednesday while the case remains under investigation, said Larry McKinnon, a Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Deputies have been inspecting several local distribution centers, as well as local vendors, since Gov. Rick Scott signed the law on March 23 to expand the chemical compounds banned.

Unlike with other drugs, deputies can't perform on-site testing to determine if the compounds are illegal. And as the law changes to ban more chemical combinations, so do the manufacturer recipes to keep their businesses legal.

"There's a significant difference between synthetic marijuana and other over-the-counter substances people abuse," McKinnon said. "Gold paint and glue are not packaged to attract young people — not packaged with Spider-man, Scooby Doo and placed in the candy aisle where kids are buying chewing gum. They are confined to hardware stores and hobby shops."

McKinnon said young people don't heed warnings on labels that the substances shouldn't be ingested by humans, and end up in emergency rooms or morgues.

During Wednesday's inspection, deputies found about 500 to 600 pounds of the substance. They were packaged under names like Kush Pink and Mind Wave in brightly colored foil.

Large amounts of the unprocessed substances were being soaked in heavy amounts of chemicals, deputies said.

Business operators assured deputies that the formula complied with state law, and that they were making incense products.

McKinnon said the Sheriff's Office has reached out to businesses and several stores have stopped stocking the products.


  1. This Feb. 19 photo shows a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland. [AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File]
    The grand jury said districts are creating “unnecessary chaos” and have become “experts at data manipulation.”
  2. Council member Ed Montanari, left, was elected St. Petersburg City Council chair for 2020. Council member Gina Driscoll was voted vice-chair. [Times (2019)]
    The chair guides the council through meetings and generally speak last on issues.
  3. NewSouth Window Solutions has a factory and its headquarters near Tampa, seven factory showrooms around Florida and in Charleston, S.C., and an eighth scheduled to open early next year in the Pensacola-Mobile, Ala. market. [LensLife Productions]
    The buyer is PGT Innovations and wants to expand. NewSouth has a factory in Tampa and eight showrooms, with a ninth on the way.
  4. Methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia sit along side the stolen DeWalt power tool and phony store receipt as evidence is collected on the hood of the car after as two men are arrested at the Home Depot at 10151 Bloomingdale Ave, in Riverview, on Tuesday, June 26, 2019. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A Times report shows Hillsborough deputies struggle to stomp out tool theft networks tied to drugs.
  5. St. Petersburg officials are looking for residents to volunteer on city boards and committees.
    Residents interested in volunteering on boards should email
  6. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benzkowski announces charges against ten former National Football League (NFL) players who are accused of defrauding an NFL health care program, at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. [CLIFF OWEN  |  AP]
    Former Jefferson High star and former Florida Gator, Donald “Reche” Caldwell is among two others who could be charged.
  7. Hillsborough deputies investigate the scene of a deputy-involved shooting on Thursday. [TONY MARRERO  |  Times]
    Sheriff Chad Chronister said three deputies fired upon Romello Barnes, 22, at about 9:40 a.m. at River Pointe Apartments, on Hidden River Drive.
  8. FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. The Federal Communications Commission is setting up a new three-digit number to reach a suicide prevention hotline. Once it's implemented, people will just need to dial 988 to seek help, similar to calling 911 for emergencies or 311 for city services. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File) [JENNY KANE  |  AP]
    Once it’s implemented, people will just need to dial 988 to seek help.
  9. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, center top, speaking during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Washington. (Matt McClain/Pool via AP) [MATT MCCLAIN  |  AP]
    Speaker Nancy Pelosi is confident Democrats will have the votes to impeach the president next week but said it is up to individual lawmakers to weigh the evidence and decide for themselves.
  10. Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis with Hillsborough Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Sheriff Chad Chronister speaking at Hillsborough High School on Thursday, Dec. 12. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff]
    If students feel supported, educators say, schools will be safer and more productive