published Friday, May 31st, 2013

Synthetic pot leads to 2 arrests

Jackson County Sheriff's Office displays seized suspected synthetic cannabinoid and drug paraphernalia.
Jackson County Sheriff's Office displays seized suspected synthetic cannabinoid and drug paraphernalia.

When a 41-year-old man was suspected of smuggling the equivalent of 9,071 cigars of synthetic marijuana into Jackson County two years ago, police weren't armed with the technology that would have allowed them to arrest him.

They are now.

It was 2011 when Jackson County Sheriff's Office detectives said they caught Ralph Currie with 20 pounds of suspected contraband in a home in Bryant, Ala. -- the largest known shipment in the county.

But Currie couldn't be charged because synthetic drugs only recently had been outlawed, and police didn't have the technology to test the drugs at the house, Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said.

Soon after, Currie, of Henegar, Ala., left the county, but investigators learned he was back in the area and have been monitoring his activity.

On Wednesday, police stopped Currie, who was with 27-year-old Selina Currie, on Highway 71 in Flat Rock and found synthetic marijuana in his car, Sheriff Chuck Phillips said in a news release.

Officers now carry drug kits so they can test the product on site and make an arrest if necessary, Harnen said.

The couple were arrested on multiple drug charges, including unlawful possession of synthetic cannabinoids and unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance. Phillips said Ralph Currie also was arrested on outstanding felony warrants from 2011.

Police then got a search warrant for the Curries' business, an old, run-down mechanical car wash in the Fackler community, and found another pound of synthetic pot, Harnen said. Police suspect that the business was only a front for the drug operation.

Inside the building, authorities found the tools used to make drugs, Harnen said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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