More drug labs in Utah’s future? DEA says it’s possible

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – The DEA is weighing in on drug labs in Utah after an early morning call to police led to the discovery of a clandestine drug lab in Cottonwood Heights.

It started with a couple’s late night recovery efforts gone wrong.

“They were evicted, they were doing some midnight moving and that’s what the neighbors saw, they saw some midnight moving, thought that didn’t look right, thought there was a burglary going on,” said Sergeant Dan Bartlett with the Cottonwood Heights Police Department.

When officers arrived at the Cottonwood Heights neighborhood, they didn’t find a burglary, but they did find a man and a woman 'ditching drugs’ and a car full of concerns.

“Once (the officers) got in the car and started pulling stuff apart, they saw a bunch of glassware,” Bartlett said. “Their eyes and nose and throats started burning, they started getting headaches."

They had stumbled upon a clandestine drug lab.

“(It's) one of the most volatile atmospheres we can send our investigators into,” said DEA assistant special agent in charge for Utah Brian Besser.

This one was for producing the drug DMT, a synthetic substance similar to LSD.

“It is a very, very powerful hallucinogen, it is a drug that has a very, very quick but powerful reaction, but ... a short effect life,” Besser said.

After a little digging, it was clear to investigators that the guy they had arrested was ready to sell. They uncovered several bags of the drug.

Police booked 37-year-old Daniel Orton on felony drug charges for both having the lab and all of the drugs.

Of course, for anyone looking to buy this drug, it doesn’t come cheap.

“DMT targets a specific drug group, but to say that it’s street value is minimal would be fallacious. It depends on who’s willing to pay for it,” Besser said.

Besser said DMT is not particularly common in Utah and there hasn't been any sort of "sudden proliferation of this drug." However, clandestine drug labs like this one could be on the rise.

“With the advent of synthetic drugs it’s common for us to start finding clandestine operations, clandestine laboratories,” Besser said.

And they could be popping up in the last places you would expect.

“We have a really nice neighborhood and people think, ‘Gee these operations are going to be on the seedy side of town, they’re not going to be in a nice neighborhood,’” Besser said. “And that’s not true. The drug trade knows no socio-economic boundaries.”

The solution, the DEA believes, is to have the public’s help.

“We want the public just to be astute, be aware of these little indicators that are going on in the homes,” Besser said.