SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Drug addicts call it spice, but police call it a big problem. It's the latest drug trend hitting the streets in Salt Lake City. And although cops and lawmakers are cracking down on spice, it won’t go away.
YouTube videos show kids doped up on spice, an illegal drug police call the chemical cousin of marijuana.
"It acts on the human brain much the same as THC," said Salt Lake County Unified Police Narcotics Diversion Unit Sgt. Scott Van Wagoner.
Spice is packaged and sold under names like “Kronik,” “Potpourri,” “Posh,” or “Fun Times.” Van Wagoner said it’s all here in Utah.
A year ago, state lawmakers banned smoke shops from selling it, but spice is still getting through. ABC 4 wanted to know which shops are ignoring the law, so in November we went undercover armed with a cell phone camera to see who would sell spice.
ABC 4 went to five different shops, and many claimed they were out.
“Like, uh, be careful, police are watching every smoke shop right now,” said one smoke shop worker.
But one worker admitted he’d have some soon.
“So you guys think you might have some next week though?” asked ABC 4 Reporter Brian Carlson.
“Yah. I will, I hope so. Yah,” the smoke shop worker said.
ABC 4 learned there was a good chance to get some spice from a gas station on 300 South in Salt Lake City. Sure enough, they sold some to us.
“Do you guys have any “Potpourii?” Carlson said. “You do?”
“What kind do you have?” ABC 4 photographer Darren McQuade said.
“Dank. It’s strong,” said the gas station worker.
Carlson asked, “How much of a high does this give you?”
“I don’t know, but they say really strong,” said the worker.
For $18, we bought four grams of what’s called ‘Dank Potpourri.’ On the label it says, “Not for human consumption.” But when we showed it to Sgt. Van Wagoner, he said odds are it’s an illegal drug.
“If you’re really going to buy potpourri are you going to pay $18 for potpourri? I think not,” Van Wagoner said.
To know for sure, ABC 4 opened it up and submitted a sample to the state crime lab. When the results came back, our Dank tested positive for two illegal drugs, JWH 122 and JWH 018.
Because ABC 4 ‘s three-month undercover operation confirmed this gas station was dealing drugs under the counter, police had the proof they needed to gear up and shut it down.
Fast forward to February, our cameras were rolling as officers raided the store.
Police seized nearly $800 worth of illegal drugs and drug-using tools.
“Screens for pipes, scales, we even found synthetic urine so the user can pass his drug test at work,” said Van Wagoner.
Officers didn’t make any arrests. But if you look at the video, the woman who sold us the drugs appears to be the same person working when police raided the store. Police say charges will be filed.
The court will make the determination of what her sentence could be, and it carries a potential of 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Penitentiary.
Police say the streets are that much safer with one less spice-selling operation.
“Someone is not buying this, somebody is not becoming impaired by what we took today,” Van Wagoner said.
The hope is that it saves the life of the next teenager or addict who would’ve bought these drugs.
Since the spice was made illegal in Utah, police say they’ve conducted half a dozen raids and seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal drugs.