DENVER (CBS4) – The owner of a Denver tobacco shop facing charges for allegedly selling spice appeared in court on Monday.
Last Friday police charged Orlando Martinez, 70, with six counts of possession with intent to distribute. Martinez owns O’s Pipes and Tobacco on East Colfax Avenue.
Undercover officers say they bought the synthetic drug at the shop three different times. Martinez told them it was legal.
Police arrested Martinez after the Colorado Bureau of Investigation confirmed the product was Spice.
“It’s like any other drug where if you’re selling this you’re basically violating law,” Sonny Jackson with Denver police said. “If you’re in possession of it, you’re violating the law.”
In recent months the state health department has seen a spike in the number of illnesses and deaths associated with the drug. In a one-month period beginning in late August the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked 165 hospitalizations to the use of synthetic marijuana use. Three deaths are still under investigation.
Denver police say their own investigations will continue as other store owners continue to sell Spice.
“I think most are motivated by profit. It’s something they can get in their stores, initially they thought it was legal, they start selling it and there was a demand for it,” Jacksons said.
Martinez has been released on a $250,000 bond.