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New variety of street drugs worries police

by on March 21, 2014 11:00 AM

Marijuana wax and marijuana “pucs.”

According to Sgt. Anthony Clement, those are a couple new terms making their way into the Indiana-area illegal drug lexicon.

Clement, the detective in charge of the Indiana Borough Police Department’s investigative division and a case supervisor in the Indiana County Drug Task Force, told Indiana council’s Public Safety Committee on Thursday that marijuana continues to be Indiana’s primary drug of abuse.

“Our marijuana cases have skyrocketed. … Our officers run across it every day,” perhaps in part because medical-grade marijuana being sold illegally has an especially strong, detectable odor, Clement said.

New on the drug scene is marijuana wax, which Clement said resembles human ear wax. It’s made from the stems and trimmings of marijuana plants rather than the buds but can have a purity level of 70 percent to 90 percent. The potent marijuana wax typically is vaporized and inhaled and can produce a high from as little as one drag.

Indiana officers have also seized marijuana pucs — marijuana that is ground and compacted into hockey puck shapes weighing about 70 grams.

Clement said the Indiana Borough PD had 42 marijuana cases in 2007. The number peaked at 218 cases in 2011 and totaled 154 last year.

“Our cocaine cases are way down,” dropping from 38 in 2007 to 11 in 2013, Clement said.

There is still a profit to be made in buying heroin in larger cities and bringing it to Indiana for resale, he said. Stamp bags of heroin — so called because they are about the size of a postage stamp and because they often bear a stamp, or a brand — sell for about $15 to $20 on the street in Indiana.

Clement said in one of the biggest local heroin busts, officers recently seized 800 stamp bags in a rural area near Indiana while serving a search warrant for a stolen TV.

Indiana officers seized 30 bags of heroin in 2007, 2,251 in 2010, 1,070 in 2012 and 289 in 2013.

Indiana police occasionally encounter designer drugs such as Ecstasy.

“Ecstasy is a popular club drug” that boosts the taker’s energy level, Clement said. It is popular at “rave parties” where electronic music and pulsating laser lights enhance the Ecstasy’s high.

“Prescription drugs are always a problem,” especially painkillers that are often addictive, he said.

The hallucinogenic drug LSD is rarely seen now around Indiana, but “we are seeing psilocybin mushrooms,” another hallucinogenic drug, Clement said.

He told council members that one of the most shocking things he has seen as a drug investigator was about a year ago when Indiana cops seized psilocybin mushrooms coated in yellow chocolate and shaped to look like the popular Peeps Easter candy.

“Our biggest asset in drug enforcement is the Indiana County Drug Task Force” funded by the state attorney general and coordinated by the Indiana County district attorney, Clement said. But with an annual budget of only $70,000, the task force is limited in what it can do.

Clement said drugs affect everyone in the Indiana area, and he showed several photos taken by police as undercover agents made drug buys, often during daylight hours and often in the parking lots of local businesses. The illegal transactions frequently are planned for landmark locations — places people routinely work, play, shop and eat — because they are easy locations for drug sellers and buyers to find.

“Any drug deal has the potential to become violent at any moment,” Clement said, adding that the Indiana officers operate on the assumption that if illegal drugs are present weapons are probably present.

Drug addiction can be financially devastating — some addicts have a habit that costs them $400 a day — and after they’ve exhausted their savings and sold everything of value they turn to crime, especially robbery, burglary and theft, to support their drug habits, he said.

To spot illegal drug use in homes and neighborhoods, Clement recommends being alert for the unique odor of burning marijuana and evidence of plastic baggies with a green residue; the presence of straws or rolled-up dollar bills that may have been used to snort cocaine; and spoons with bent handles or scorched bottoms that may have been used to cook heroin before it was injected.

The public can also help fight illegal drug use, Clement said, by reporting suspicious drug activity to police and supporting drug law enforcement efforts.

And Clement had one other new term for the special vocabulary of illegal drug use. He warned citizens to be aware of any mention by young people of plans to attend what sounds like a “farm party” — except what they mean is a “pharm party,” as in pharmaceuticals. Kids or teens secretly take their parents’ pharmaceuticals from the family medicine cabinet, throw them all into a bowl at the party and “eat them like Skittles,” he said.



Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is rwells@indianagazette.net.
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