By John Cheves – firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Moffett, a Republican candidate for governor, is calling on Kentucky to “nullify” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration while he accepts campaign support from the owners of a Lexington store that police say sold illegal drugs.
Campaign manager David Adams said Friday that Moffett has specific concerns about the DEA’s interference in state sovereignty, but he does not back drug legalization or condone drug crimes. The campaign stands by its supporters because it believes they did nothing wrong, Adams said.
Lexington police on Feb. 10 raided The Botany Bay at 932 Winchester Road and seized a variety of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, several thousand dollars in cash and two loaded guns, according to court records. Police arrested six people in connection with the raid, including store employees, who face pending felony and misdemeanor drug charges.
Police later charged store owners Ginny and Scott Saville, who were not present, with misdemeanor counts of trafficking in synthetic marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. They have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to appear next month in Fayette District Court.
Ginny Saville helped organize a Dec. 7 fund-raiser for Moffett and, with her husband, donated $2,000 to him. A large Moffett campaign poster hung in the store’s window Friday. When the raid happened, she and her husband were with the Moffett campaign at the Conservative Action Political Conference in Washington, D.C., according to Adams.
A phone call alerted Saville to the arrival of police at her store, Adams said.
“She was quite upset with what was going on,” Adams said. “She said that the store was being raided, that some of her employees — and she’s like a mother to her employees, they’re young college students — that they had been arrested.”
Adams said Saville has denied involvement with illegal drugs, so the Moffett campaign does not plan to return her money or cut ties with her.
“I know Ginny Saville well,” Adams said. “I take her at her word when she says she and her husband are not engaged in any illegal activity.”
Earlier this month, Moffett issued a campaign statement calling for Kentucky to “nullify” the DEA — which enforces federal drug laws — by invoking the right to state sovereignty suggested in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.
“We need a ‘Kentucky revolution’ against federal regulations,” wrote Moffett, owner of a Louisville wireless communications firm. “Simply put, ‘nullification of federal agencies’ means NO trespassing in Kentucky.”
Adams said Moffett’s only objection to the DEA is its prohibition on the cultivation of industrial hemp, which could be a valuable crop for Kentucky farmers. Hemp and marijuana chemically are different, so hemp can’t get anyone high, Adams said. But the plants appear similar enough for the DEA to oppose hemp cultivation.
Moffett faces Kentucky Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw in the May 17 Republican gubernatorial primary.
In an interview Friday, Saville confirmed Adams’ account of the Washington trip but said her lawyer advised her not to discuss the police raid or the criminal charges against her and her husband.
Saville volunteered last year for Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign, to which she and her husband gave $4,500. She said she was drawn to Moffett’s campaign because she likes his pledge for lower taxes and less government.
Saville, Moffett and others spoke in September at a Tea Party movement political rally outside the state Capitol in Frankfort. Moffett urged the crowd to “fight back against the federal government.”
Saville criticized the government’s war on drugs.
“A lot of people enjoy intoxication. You might not like it. But there has never been a single society in the history of humans that has not used mind-altering drugs,” Saville told the crowd. “And that’s another thing we’re not going to change with the stroke of a pen.”
On The Botany Bay’s Facebook page, following the police raid, Saville posted photographs of her store looking disheveled, with merchandise strewn on the floor. She blamed the raid on her political activity.
“This was a political hit on my shop and it was done because I work for everyone’s liberty,” she wrote. “And I will continue this work, and I will continue to win the battles I can.”
The police know nothing about Saville’s politics, police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said. The Botany Bay was one of roughly a dozen local stores targeted in February because police, working with informants, suspected it sold synthetic marijuana, which is illegal, Roberts said.
On Feb. 3, a police informant entered The Botany Bay, asked for “Serenity” and for $15 was given a glass vial branded as “herbal incense,” according to a search warrant affidavit filed in court. The Kentucky State Police laboratory said the substance tested positive for synthetic marijuana, according to the affidavit.
Police raided the store Feb. 10 and seized thousands of “herbal incense” packages with names including Head Trip, Scooby Snax, Blue Rhino, Purple Sticky, King Krypto and Love Potion 69, according to the affidavit.
They also seized a loaded shotgun, a loaded revolver and drug paraphernalia, such as bongs, marijuana pipes, marijuana grinders, digital scales, blunt wrappers, home drug tests and “detoxifyers,” according to the affidavit.
Police arrested several employees and customers who were in the store at the time. Searches of their vehicles outside the store turned up containers of marijuana, marijuana buds and marijuana cigarettes, according to the affidavit.
“Politics had nothing to do with it. The warrant and the evidence speak for themselves,” Roberts said. “Obviously it was a very successful operation for us, which we’re pleased by because these are some harmful substances.”