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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) -
Earlier this week in a WIS undercover investigation, we took you inside the shops, and face-to-face with those apparently selling synthetic marijuana brands as identified by the drug enforcement administration.
After numerous emails and phone calls to our investigative team from outraged viewers, we dug deeper into just who is selling it.
Two of the three shops that appeared to be selling synthetic marijuana are called 'Timewarp'.
Earlier this week, the team spoke to the store owner Jerry Baker.
It was then that Baker spoke about various unrelated drug charges he was facing and his desire to stay out of the spotlight.
After viewing the WIS-TV undercover video of Timewarp, clerks like ‘Timewarp' owner Jerry Baker posted on Facebook exactly what he thought. In response to the ‘Timewarp' accusations Baker posted, “nothing but false propagandists.”
The investigation found 'spice' brands, as identified by the DEA, at Baker's Timewarp stores, but according to a Facebook post by Baker's wife, "None contain any of the federally banned chemicals. We purchase our products ... primarily on line, from reputable companies.”
The DEA stated that the formulas for designer drugs like these are constantly changing as a way of skirting the law and regulation.
“I can't stress enough, all they have to do is make a minor alteration to these chemicals and then it's an all new chemical, a potential new drug and it has to go through the process of being labeled a controlled substance,” said South Carolina DEA agent Robert Murphy said.
Baker claims that he has lab reports to prove that his products do not contain banned substances. The WIS-TV investigative team is still waiting for copies of those reports.
Throughout the investigation, Baker adamantly claimed that he simply sells potpourri, even explaining that paper cups – that the DEA stated were for selling the drug in small, loose quantities -- were actually potpourri dishes.
According to prominent defense attorney, Pete Strom, if the packets contained banned substances, the Bakers' defense would not be very strong.
“Somehow, trying to say you have to burn it [the drug] in an incense burner, doesn't get him out of anything,” Strom said. “No disclaimer works. You're not going to get yourself out of trouble for violating criminal law by writing on the back of the package 'not for human consumption' or 'don't smoke this'.”
Baker admitted that he didn't want to comment on the investigative drug story because he has accepted a plea deal for drug distribution charges and faces up to 10 years in prison.
According to the South Carolina law enforcement division, Baker has had 17 unrelated drug and assault charges pressed against him since 1997. More than half of those charges have been dropped. Baker currently still has unrelated pending drug charges.
One thing both Baker and the DEA agree on: the profit you can make from selling what Baker calls 'herbal potpourri'. Baker explained that he's just trying to make a living. In another post on Facebook Baker says, “...land of the free? USA? Land of opportunity?”
“They have no idea what has been put in this... it's never been tested,” Murphy said. “It's never been screened in the United States. They have no concern other than the dollar they are making from selling that substance.”
Baker response is to the DEA agents comment is, “if someone abuses any product sold anywhere to their detriment...seek professional help for that individual...not attack the store....”
Attorney Strom explained that store clerks can face a distribution charge just by ringing customers up.
“Literally every customer could be a distribution charge,” Strom said.
Due to the large volume of calls, and emails that the WIS-TV investigative team has received about these specific Timewarp stores -- we reached out to the Lexington County Sheriff's Office to find out what they're doing to stop the sale of synthetic marijuana.
They refused to comment because they say it's all part of an on-going investigation.
Baker also stated that SLED agents regularly go undercover and come into his shop to buy his 'herbal potpourri'. The investigative team has not been able to verify that.