HOBBS, N.M. (KRQE) - Two months ago, police in southeastern New Mexico raided smoke shops, seizing boxes and boxes of spice, the synthetic form of marijuana. Now police have a problem, the test results came back on those products and they're not illegal.
Police say drug-makers are staying a step ahead of the law. Boxes of products known as spice were seized in October from a local smoke shop in Hobbs after an undercover operation.
"They advertise these products as incense and things of that nature, but they're being sold out of stores that are known as smoke shops," explained Chris McCall, Hobbs Interim Police Chief. "So the intent for these substances is very clear from these merchants."
Police said they started the investigation because the synthetic marijuana has been a growing problem, especially with young people.
"It's very lucrative, they're basically drug dealers dealing drugs to the children in our community, and its something that we want to put a stop to and we're going to continue working towards that goal," said McCall.
However, their goal just became more difficult. The seized spice was taken to the crime lab for testing. The results just came back, and they do not contain specific chemicals that would qualify the products as illegal spice, which means police are forced by law to give it all back to stores.
"Although we know it's a very dangerous drug, we know its affecting the children in our community, its affecting our call-load everyday, the types of calls that we respond to," explained McCall. "It's kind of disheartening on our part to have to return that."
The products can go right back on store shelves, even though they can still get people high. McCall said police believe stores are using loopholes to circumvent the law.
"Their suppliers change their formula regularly to stay out in front of what's being mandated as illegal," said McCall. "they're changing minute portions of the formula that changes the chemical makeup, so they know what they're doing."
Police said law enforcement will work with the state pharmacy board in the future toward expanding the list of chemical ingredients that make a drug illegal.
Because the recently tested forms of spice technically aren't illegal, they don't fall under a new law the city of Hobbs just passed. That ordinance would suspend licenses of businesses caught selling illegal drugs.
McCall said officers will still enforce the law against illegal synthetic drugs.
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