DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado is a major distributor of synthetic marijuana or “Spice,” but a new law could put many sellers out of business.
Last summer dozens of young people were hospitalized. Many ended up in comas while others suffered seizures. Three of them died. All of them had taken a drug known as “Black Mamba” or Spice.
It’s a drug that is illegal but is sold in many convenience stores and gas stations.
“It’s a very serious drug and a very serious problem,” said State Rep. Lois Landgraf.
Landgraf said that store owners have long skirted the law by selling the drug as incense, bath salts and plant food.
She has introduced legislation that would create civil penalties for those who sell it, regardless of what they call it. The fines would run from $10,000 to $500,000 per packet.
“So if a convenience store or gas station has 12 packets on hand it could put them out of business,” said Landgraf.
Tom Raynes is the head of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.
“In essence the bill is attempting to make clear to the store owner that it doesn’t matter if you know if you’re selling something deceptively marketed or has a name on it of something it’s not. You’re on the hook,” said Raynes.
He said the challenge will be proving a store owner is selling the drug.
“What we need is some quick way to get a quick test for law enforcement on the street. They need to know what they’re dealing with when they walk into a store,” said Raynes.
The legislation would also fund a pilot program for 10 quick detection devices known as “Trunarc.”
The quick detection devices start at $10,000 each. Already used in Alabama and Georgia, they can tell an officer immediately if a packet contains the drug.
It’s a drug many people think is synthetic marijuana when it can be 800 times more potent.
“It’s a very dangerous product and we need to stop it,” said Landgraf.
If the legislation passes it would be the toughest in the country.