Synthetic drugs still causing problems for police
By Brent Curtis
Staff Writer | November 05,2012
Jim Stone said he doesn’t sell “spice” — the name for a wide variety of herbal mixtures that can produce a marijuana-like high when smoked.
But the owner of the Emporium Tobacco Shop in Rutland was the victim of a burglary at his shop that city police say was driven by a man seeking the synthetic drugs.
On the night of Oct. 27, police arrested Jody L. Morris, 48, as he allegedly ran from the scene. In the Proctor man’s pockets were packets taken from the store that a police affidavit said contained spice but which Stone said in an interview last week were energy-enhancing pills.
“He probably thought it was spice because of the way it was packaged,” Stone said. “About a month ago we took spice off our shelves.”
In statements that he made to police on his way to the Rutland jail, Morris believed the packets contained much more than energy enhancers, police said.
“You need to make this (expletive) illegal because it makes me do stupid things. When I use this I want to shoot people. No kidding, I want to shoot people,” Morris told police.
He later pleaded innocent in Rutland criminal court to a felony charge of burglary. He remained jailed Sunday on $25,000 bail.
Spice has presented increasing challenges for law enforcement and legislators trying to keep the product off store shelves in Vermont.
While some chemically similar substances — such as bath salts — have been banned, police say the makers of spice have found ways to get around laws prohibiting their products by simply changing their chemical formulas.
“That’s the way around it,” Rutland police Detective Cpl. David LaChance said.
To make matters worse, LaChance said there’s usually no way of knowing the chemical composition of the various kinds of spice without sending the products to labs.
While products sold for human consumption require an inventory of ingredients, the various kinds of spice, which are often marketed as incense and not for human consumption, don’t say what the herbs were sprayed with, LaChance said.
He said police presently have to send the products to independent labs for testing — at the expense of local law enforcement.
Police say legislation is in the works to ban all spice-like substances independent of their specific chemical makeup. But for now it’s up to police and store owners to guess at whether the spice available on the market is legal or not.
Until more comprehensive laws are passed, law enforcement agencies around the state, including the state Department of Liquor Control, are waging an educational campaign aimed at retailers.
“We say to the shops that they know and agree that kids are not using this stuff for incense,” said William Goggins, director of enforcement at the Department of Liquor Control. “A lot of shop owners want nothing to do with it.”
Stone said he is one of those shop owners, and Dan DeJarnette at the House of Glass smoke shop on Evelyn Street in Rutland said he is another.
“Honestly, I don’t believe in it,” DeJarnette said. “It’s poison but we have had people asking for it,”
He said the store stopped carrying spice about two months ago. Other stores contacted in the city said they never carried the products.