Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Police today seized $45,000 worth of synthetic marijuana being delivered to Birmingham, authorities said.

Birmingham police said the investigation is ongoing so they declined to say where they got the haul of synthetic marijuana, commonly known as Spice. They did say, however, they were able to intercept the drugs before they hit the city's stores and streets. The department's vice and narcotics detectives made a similar bust last week as part of their probe into the same organization.

Lt. Ron Sellers said officers confiscated hundreds of 4-gram packets of the illegal drug. The load was packaged in 10 large, Ziploc-type storage bags. Each individual packet sells for between $30 to $45.

Authorities have not yet announced any arrests in connection with the confiscation. "This was a large quantity coming into the Birmingham area,'' Sellers said.

Synthetic marijuana was sold legally in Alabama until October 2011 when Gov. Robert Bentley signed an executive order banning the substance. Before the ban, it was commonly sold over the counter at gas stations, convenience stores and tobacco shops and marketed as herbal incense.

Known side effects of synthetic marijuana include anxiety attacks, seizures, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate, rapid pulse, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, aggression, uncontrollable rage, severe depression and addiction. There have been instances of death linked to the use of synthetic marijuana.

After the 2011 ban, Birmingham police and law enforcement agencies across the state paid visits to the places that sold Spice and warned them that it was illegal. "We went to local head shops, stores, etc. and they voluntarily gave us their product and we destroyed it,'' Sellers said.

A lot of sellers stopped offering the drug, but others didn't. Now buyers usually have to ask for it in code. The chemical drug is packaged in a way that makes it attractive to younger buyers, such as Scooby Snax, and marketed as something much less dangerous than what it is. "We want the parents to know this is not incense,'' Sellers said.

One of the things that makes synthetic marijuana so dangerous is the unpredictable combinations of ingredients. "It even says on the packet 'Not for human consumption,''' Sellers said. ”You have no idea what's going in your body."

Published: March 28, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Updated: March 28, 2013 at 1:21 PM

By Carol Robinson | crobinson@al.com
The Birmingham News

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