Loophole allows illegal drug ‘Spice’ to be sold in Colorado
DENVER — FOX31 Denver’s Investigative Team discovered a loophole in Colorado law which allows the illegal drug Spice to be sold here legally.
A state wide investigation continues into the source of deadly synthetic designer drugs called Spice being sold in the Denver area. Health experts blame the drugs, which are sold under the names Black Mamba, Crazy Monkey and a host of other names, on three deaths and more than 150 people being treated in Denver area emergency rooms in the last three weeks.
A 2011 Colorado law is supposed to make Spice illegal in the state, but FOX31 Denver’s Investigative team found state statute does not stop stores from selling it nor kids from smoking it with devastating consequences.
Our Investigative team went undercover and bought Spice from mini-marts in both Denver and Aurora. The so called synthetic marijuana is really a chemical concoction often made in China and packaged as incense or potpourri.
The label says “Not for human consumption” but that does not keep teenagers too young to buy alcohol or medical marijuana, from trying it.
An Aurora woman, who does not want to be identified, told Investigative reporter Heidi Hemmat that Spice is ruining her family. “It’s very scary. It’s hard to deal with.”
She said a 23-year-old family member had a heart attack and nearly died after smoking spice.
“He took this really big hit of it and then all the sudden he felt this very sharp pain in his heart and he fell to the ground,” the woman said.
She said Spice is nothing like marijuana and compared it to a combination of crack cocaine and LSD. “It’s so intense to the point where you can actually hallucinate off of it. I’ve seen them hallucinate off of it.”
Her family is hooked. “They’re actually staying up all night smoking it, waking up in the middle of the night to smoke it,” she said.
The woman took us to Paymon’s Mini Mart in Aurora where her family buys Spice.
She claims the store sells to children and she has called police. “I’ve actually called the cops. I’ve called the narcotics team,” she said.
The calls to law enforcement did not stop the sales of Spice.
Aurora Police said they cannot stop the sale of Spice from the store either.
“It’s hard for us to not only arrest, but I imagine then to prosecute,” Aurora Police public information officer Frank Fania said.
The law enforcement agency will not enforce the law because the store is selling a new type of Spice that does not contain chemicals banned by the law. Colorado law bans nine specific chemicals.
“These aren’t just backyard chemists making Spice, these are very intelligent, educated individuals who are not only making it, but are well informed about the current laws,” Fania said.
Colorado Senator Irene Aguilar helped pass Colorado’s Spice law. She said the Colorado law bans the nine common chemicals that have been used to make Spice in the past, but added that the law is also supposed to prohibit the sale of drugs that have a similar effect.
Hemmat asked, “What you’re basically saying is that law says if it acts like Spice, gets you high like Spice, that it is illegal under this law?”
“Right, the law was set up to cover that,” Aguilar said.
But, police across the state tell FOX31 Denver that part of the law is too vague to enforce and that is why stores can sell it.
We took the Spice we bought to a Fort Collins toxicologist for testing.
Doctor Robert Lance confirmed the Spice contained chemical combinations he has never seen before.
“They read the law and change how they make the substance,” Lance said.
Lance believes the Chinese chemist come up with hundreds of ways to create Spice. “They may have 20 or 30 new ones every week,” he said.
We asked the owner of Paymon’s Mini Mart, Ray Ghamari, about selling Spice in his store.
Ghamari did not deny the store sold Spice but said “We don’t have nothing to talk about.”
Ghamari told us there is no Spice in his store.
The U.S. Justice Department is currently prosecuting a Spice bust in Fort Collins where law enforcement arrested five people for making Spice.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh said, “The dangers of these drugs can sneak up on people. There are, unfortunately, an enormous number of instances were kids have taken these drugs and have been very seriously injured.”
The Colorado Attorney General is also has also filed a lawsuit against a Longmont store for selling Spice. State officials confiscated about 1,000 containers of Spice and the owner was arrested, said AG spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler.
In the meantime, children looking for a legal high will find plenty of places to buy it. No questions asked.