Law enforcement crack down on synthetic marijuana sales, use

Use of drugs popular among teens, young adults

Published On: Feb 22 2013 03:37:01 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 22 2013 06:11:19 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Law enforcement in northeast Florida are cracking down those who sell an illegal drug popular among teens.

Synthetic marijuana, commonly called K2 or Spice, is made of natural herbs, then sprayed with chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana when smoked.

So far, Clay County deputies have found three stores selling synthetic marijuana, and now one store owner is facing felony charges. But deputies say there are more out there.

They used surveillance, and in some cases, undercover officers were able to walk right in the stores and buy the synthetic marijuana.

But investigators say one of the biggest helps is people speaking out.

"There's a public outcry right now," said Capt. Barry Abramowitz, of the Clay County Sheriff's Office. "We're getting complaints like crazy on this stuff."

Abramowitz says his narcotics unit gets tips every day from people who know there are stores selling synthetic marijuana, even though it's been illegal since last year.

"We actually went to all the stores, all the convenience stores in this county and said, 'Look, if you have this this and this, it's going to be illegal, and we suggest you take it off the shelves."

But some didn't.

Last August at S&C Discount Beverages, an undercover officer saw a customer purchasing synthetic marijuana and was able to buy the drug himself. The store is shut down and and the owner is facing felony charges.

Investigators have been able to seize synthetic marijuana from two more stores this year.

"It wasn't seen unless you actually went in there and asked for it specifically, and in some cases a code was used to get it," Abramowitz said.

There's a push to get the drug off the streets because it's popular with teens and young adults, who don't know the drug can have serious effects.

Michael Moore says he's already talking to his 10- and 11-year-olds about the drug, and the latest investigations should be a wakeup call for parents.

"I think some parents might overlook it, saying, 'Oh, my child is not going to do that,' but they haven't actually sat down and talked to them yet," Moore said. "And they might be getting pressured every day to do it."

Another big challenge for investigators is prosecuting people who make and sell synthetic marijuana. There are certain chemicals that are illegal, so investigators say sometimes people change one or two of the chemicals, but the drug still has the same effect.