ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - New Mexico banned the sale and use of Spice, the synthetic marijuana, a couple years ago, but that hasn't stopped stores from selling it. Now one city councilor has launched a crackdown.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently raided an Albuquerque warehouse that was a hub for the nationwide Spice trade. The drug was being manufactured in the warehouse and shipped around the country.
Spice is the new drug of choice among teens, and city officials say they're having a hard time controlling the illegal drug because the names and ingredients on the packaging are always changing.
"It changes constantly," said City Councilor Debbie O'Malley. "It's put on anything that's flammable, paper, tobacco, and people that are smoking this don't even know what they're getting."
With names like Spice, K-2, Scooby Snax, Mr. Happy, it's easy to see why it's hard for law enforcement to keep track. The names all reference forms of synthetic marijuana, and all of the items were confiscated from the warehouse near Jefferson Street NE and Mcleod Avenue last month.
It's already a crime to sell the drug in the state, but Albuquerque police say that's not stopping some businesses. The city may start shutting down businesses that are caught selling the illegal drug.
"We've been working on this for several months because the problem keeps escalating," said O'Malley. "We thought, what kind of approach do we need to take?"
The councilor says the answer is to punish the business, too. She says there is too much of a gray area with the synthetic drugs, and because of that criminal charges rarely stick and take too long.
Here's what she wants: On the first offense, businesses are put on notice. On the second the city closes the business for three days and investigators thoroughly inspect it. If the business is caught selling Spice again, it will loses its license for a year.
The councilor emphasized it's a plan that must work.
"A lot of young people think it's pretty harmless," O'Malley continued. "They think they're just going to get a little high off it when in fact they're having very severe health reactions to this drug,"
A city attorney says officers can't shut down a business caught with Spice right away because they have to prove the business knew what it was selling was illegal. He said it's easy for businesses to plead ignorance because the name and ingredients change so often.
The city council could vote on the legislation in July. If passed it could take a couple months before it goes into effect.
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