HOBBS, N.M. (KRQE) - It's a problem we've seen pop up all over the state.
Spice, often sold at smoke shops as incense, being smoked to get high.
Police in southeast New Mexico said they're seeing a dangerous trend with young people, and they're cracking down on the stores selling it.
Hundreds of packages, with names like "Watermelon," and "Ripped," are now part of evidence in the Hobbs Police Department. All of it was seized from Up In Smoke smoke shop in Hobbs.
"It's readily available, and its very dangerous to the public," said Officer Mike Stone, of the Hobbs Police Department.
In one week, police have arrested at least three young men for using Spice. At least two were charged with driving under the influence of the drug.
Police said several people point to smoke shops in town, saying clerks there suggest which "incense" to smoke. So police found out for themselves.
"The officers went in the stores, they asked, 'You know. What gives you the best high? Which ones can I smoke, and which ones the best to smoke?' and the clerks told them," Stone explained.
That was enough to get search warrants and seize the items. Police said the products are laced with dangerous chemicals, and that stores are using loopholes to sell drugs to citizens.
"When something is outlawed by the DEA, they'll go ahead and change whatever chemical is in there that's making people high," said Stone.
Police said selling Spice is a lucrative business. Spice products seized from one store has a retail value of roughly $88,000.
When police got to the second store, Smokers Outlet, to remove all the Spice products they'd seen there earlier, they said all of the merchandise had been removed. Police believe that's because the other smoke shop tipped off people there that they were coming.
Representatives of stores declined to speak on camera. Smokers Outlet recently put up signs stating, "Herbal incense is not for human consumption, and anyone referring to it as "Spice" will be refused service."
Still, city officials argue the packaging and form indicate there's no intent for the product to be used as incense.
"Almost everything that you buy in these stores, they're called smoke shops, people are going to smoke it, and they're selling this stuff knowing that it's going to be smoked," said Stone.
City officials in Hobbs refer to Spice as poison and say they're committed to getting rid of it.
Hobbs police are sending the seized Spice products to the state lab to see whether they contain illegal chemicals. If they do, the store owners or clerks could face charges.
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