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Synthetic Drugs From Smoker's Video Blamed In Teen's Death

It all began with a tip in 2013 and ended with arrest warrants for 13 people connected with three Jacksonville Smoker's Video stores this week. The charges range from misdemeanors to manslaughter, for the 2015 death of Clay County 16-year-old Matthew Purdy.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams says Purdy smoked a synthetic drug called Sunshine, which he purchased at the Smoker's Video on Normandy Boulevard. Raids on all three locations seized 261 vials of Sunshine and 3,317 bags of another substance called Breeze.

Both substances were legal not long ago because state law has had a hard time keeping up with ever-changing formulas. Until recently, the Legislature would have to outlaw each new synthetic substance whenever the chemistry changed. Williams says the drug makers who supplied Smoker's Video were staying one step ahead of law enforcement agents in a "cat and mouse" game for nearly three years by constantly altering the makeup of the drugs.

But a recently passed state law makes all similar substances automatically illegal with no further legislative action needed. Williams says that change, which goes into effect July 1, will allow police to build criminal cases similar to the Smoker's Video investigation much more quickly.

This story will be updated.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP