DEA raids smoke shop as Free Keene members look on
“We’re targeting every level of the designer synthetic drug market in the U.S., wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, the whole gamut,” said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne.
“We’re looking at 150, 160 arrests nationwide,” Payne said.
Payne would not speak specifically about Keene or whether anyone was arrested as a result of the search of Phat Stuff.
Store employee Evan Prokowich said he was called to the store shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday when the employee opening the store said the DEA had arrived with a search warrant.
About a dozen DEA agents were inside the store, he said.
Prokowich said the shop had sold “herbal incense” in the past, but stopped months ago when the city banned it.
Prokowich said he wasn’t told what the DEA was looking for, but was given a document that said products such as bongs and water pipes and any other devices uses to inhale or ingest illegal drugs would be seized.
He added the store also sells sex toys.
Just before 4:30 p.m. the crowd moved out to the back of the store where DEA agents, one wearing a ski mask, filled a U-Haul truck with boxes labeled DEA evidence.
Members of Free Keene videotaped the DEA agents and some heckled the agents about taking the store’s merchandise, saying they were taking away the store owner’s livelihood.
Rich Paul said he believes all drugs should be legal and said there is nothing in the Constitution that allows for the federal government to prohibit drug use.
The raids targeted synthetic drugs, which are often manufactured in China, and packaged as incense, spice, bath salts or plant food and labeled not for human consumption, but have caused overdoses because people can buy them over the counter and know they are designed to mimic illegal drugs. Some are hallucinogens some stimulants.