BRADENTON - Its being touted as one the first busts of its kind on the Suncoast. Manatee County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation that resulted in the seizure of thousands of dollars worth of synthetic marijuana.
The investigation focused on two shell gas stations just a few blocks apart on 14th Street West. During the raid, the Manatee County Sheriff Office says they found the mother load of illegal substances.
"We seized over 5,000 packages of K-2 spice," said Brad Steube, Manatee County Sheriff.
And according to representatives from First Step, a drug rehabilitation center in Sarasota, K-2 spice is usually marketed as incense or fake weed. "It's sprayed on incense material or herbs in liquid form, then allowed to dry, and its the actual herbs that's smoked by individuals. But it's the synthetic chemical that is sprayed on them that is getting individuals high," said PJ Brooks a director at First Step Sarasota.
Although K-2 is compared to marijuana, Brooks says the effects are not similar. "The people who are coming in for detox for using K-2 spice are having to be treated like they are coming in for narcotic detox because the withdraw is similar."
And, Brooks says that's just the beginning, "There's a number of individuals who are being found on the street who have to be taken to the crisis stabilization unit rather than detox because their symptoms look like they are having a psychotic break."
Those impacts were the driving force behind legislators making many of the components used to create K-2 spice products illegal. And, the Sheriff office says before they issued their search warrant, they made several attempts to inform local stores they could no longer sell the items.
"We were seeing it show up in all our convenience stores and then we put out letters to everybody. A few months later the laws changed to include more of the chemicals and more of the substances, then we put out another letter," said Steube.
During the raid, officials say they found 3 of those letters, sent to local stores. Although no charges have been filed yet, they are convinced the owner knew the products should not have been on the stores shelves.
"It all boils down to the almighty dollar and who can make the money here," said Steube.
Steube says they plan on targeting the owner of the stores and they will be meeting with the State's Attorney's Office to see if and what charges should be filed.