BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A massive nationwide federal raid cracks down on the makers and distributors of so-called synthetic drugs. Those busts spanned some 29 states, including Maryland.

Derek Valcourt explains it’s an extensive investigation first launched in January.

Local law enforcement agencies in Maryland have been fighting this disturbing trend for years. Now the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency brings their heavy fist to the fight.

Commonly called “spice,” it looks and acts like marijuana. But when smoked, the chemically altered plant leaves can have much more dangerous side effects including hallucinations, suicide, violence, heart attacks and brain damage.

The same is true for so-called bath salts–another synthetic drug meant to simulate cocaine or meth.

“If you haven’t done it, don’t. That’s all I can say about that bath salt. It killed my boy,” said James Baldwin.

As deaths and emergency room visits nationwide spiked from these synthetic drugs, Maryland lawmakers banned their sale and use in 2013.

Local law enforcement agencies began cracking down on convenience stores and smoke shops that sold them, arresting the chemists manufacturing the products often found in kid-friendly packaging.

“They need to understand how dangerous this is to the people who are buying it,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

Since January, federal agents conducted raids in 29 states, including Maryland, as part of the nation’s largest law enforcement operation targeting synthetic drugs.

Investigators say many of the drug chemicals are manufactured in China, while hundreds of millions of dollars of profit are being funneled into countries in the Middle East.

“I don’t want to say 100 percent definitely that this is financing terror, but we have a pretty good idea of where this money is going. That should alarm people,” said Rusty Payne, DEA spokesperson.

As part of the raids, local, state and federal authorities confiscated hundreds of thousands of ready-to-sell drug packets and arrested more than 150 people.

The DEA says no one from Maryland was arrested in the raids. They say their largest raid occurred in the Birmingham, Ala. area.

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