Feds investigate possible synthetic marijuana manufacturing operation in WPB

DEA investigates after warehouse explosion

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A powerful explosion at West Palm Beach warehouse has local and federal investigators looking into what caused the blast and also if there was illegal drug manufacturing going on inside. 

Cynthia Hudson heard and felt the blast.  "It was literally like a plane crashed right here."  Monday night, around the corner from her home, the explosion blew the doors and windows off of a warehouse on Georgia Avenue.

Acetone is one highly combustible chemicals local and federal investigators say may have been inside. 

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents said it is often used to manufacture synthetic marijuana.  "We've come across instances where they are mixing the chemicals and it's actually a controlled substance that they are selling," said DEA Agent John McKenna. There is no confirmation yet that something illegal taking place inside the warehouse.

Lantana police officer Nelson Berrios is not part of this investigation but has, for years, been on a quest to shut down synthetic marijuana shops. 

"You don't know where these labs are," said Officer Berrios.  "They can be in somebody's garage. We don't know," he said. Berrios says synthetic drug manufacturers often change the ingredients of their products to stay in business.  "Just as soon as we change legislation to meet the product that is out there, they've already decided to change it to make it legal again," he said.

The ground outside the warehouse is still littered with hundreds of empty packets marked for sale as incense not for human consumption. Many questions being asked by investigators and by homeowners like Hudson.  "What are you doing in there? What kid of business is this? And are you supposed to be right here in this area?"

Police are still trying to locate the owner of the business at the center of this investigation to hopefully answer some of those questions.

The blast made the building unstable so DEA investigators will have to wait until some of it is torn down before continuing testing inside.

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