Law enforcement officers hit four stores in eastern North Carolina over the past week in undercover sting operations targeting the drug “spice.” They arrested four men on multiple drug charges.
Spice and another synthetic drug known as “bath salts” were outlawed in North Carolina on June 1. The drugs were commonly sold at “smoke shops” and convenience stores, and are still legal in many states, including South Carolina. But outlawing the drugs has not stopped their sale.
Jacksonville police conducted the first of the recent raids Tuesday night, Sept. 20. Two stores were hit:
Discount Tobacco – More than 34,000 grams of spice with a retail value of $1,021,830 were seized. The 48-year-old owner was charged with crimes including trafficking synthetics, possession of drug paraphernalia, selling drugs within a 1,000 feet of a daycare, and conspiracy. He was given a $150,000 bond.
The One Stop – More than 3,000 grams of spice with a retail value of $93,420 were seized. A 27-year-old employee was
Spice packet (cc) image from U.S. Navy
charged with trafficking synthetic cannabinoids and possession with intent to manufacture, sell, distribute the drugs. He was given a $33,000 bond.
The next stings came Friday night in Newport. Carteret County deputies and Morehead City and Newport police searched two stores:
Askar’s Tobacco Shop
Askar’s Mini Mart
– Nearly 200 grams of spice were seized, along with scales, rolling papers bongs, pipes and marijuana grinders, according to the sheriff’s office.
A 41-year-old man, apparently the owner of the stores, was charged with crimes including trafficking synthetic cannabinoids, conspiracy, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Another man, age 40, was charged with most of the same offenses. Both their bonds were set at $250,000.
Spice could be called a type of man-made marijuana. It is strongly addictive, and side effects include panic attacks, heart palpitations, hallucinations, delusions, vomiting and increased agitation.
Bath salts are incredibly deadly. They may cause increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, chest pains, and other harmful effects. The physical reactions can result in death.
But bath salts’ extreme psychotic reactions are the most shocking. There have been reports of car crashes, self-mutilations, suicides and homicides linked to the use of bath salts.
Still, even though the drugs have been outlawed, it’s easy to see the incentive to keep selling it. A store owner with a million dollars worth of drug inventory would be highly motivated to try to collect that money, especially if he thinks the authorities are not watching.
Fortunately it appears that they are watching, at least in eastern North Carolina. After a sweep in August busted seven smoke shops in Fayetteville, a police sergeant said those warrants were “the tip of the iceberg.”
“Other businesses will start to see that if you are selling these substances and chemical compounds that are in violation based upon what General Assembly enacted,” said Sgt. Tom Joyce, “you’re subject to search warrant and seizure of that and criminal charges.”
Let’s hope that sweep goes statewide.