DENVER (CBS4)– A tobacco store in Denver remains open despite several police raids and an arrest in the past year for allegedly selling illegal synthetic marijuana.
More than 150 people have gone to Denver metro area emergency rooms in recent months after using synthetic pot often called “Black Mamba” and “Spice” on the street. Three deaths are also being investigated in relation to those cases.
There have been at least three raids at O’s Tobacco Shop in the 8300 block of East Colfax Ave. In each raid investigators removed product that tested positive as synthetic pot.
CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger learned that undercover police officers from Denver have visited the shop seven times in the past 12 months.
In each case the undercover officers reported they were able to purchase synthetic marijuana.
CBS4 conducted their own undercover investigation when they visited the shop in early September. When first asked the clerk said they didn’t sell the products with names like “Spice” or “Black Mamba.” But then pointed out a product on a shelf inside a glass case.
“What’s that?” asked the CBS4 undercover reporter.
“Mamba,” responded the clerk.
“Can I see it?” asked the CBS4 undercover reporter.
Shortly after that police in Denver arrested the owner of the store, Orlando Martinez.
Martinez, 70, has been charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute synthetic marijuana.
Police said he told them he thought it was legal to sell the product.
During one visit to the store an undercover officer asked the clerk if it would make him test positive for drugs.
“This won’t make me (urinate) hot, right?” asked the undercover officer.
“No, this is meant for people on probation,” responded the clerk.
On another occasion the clerk warned, “Be careful with that stuff.”
Martinez’s store has not been directly linked to selling the bad batch of synthetic marijuana that has sent 165 people to Denver metro area hospitals.
CBS4 also visited a convenience store in Aurora in September inquiring about synthetic pot.
“We used to sell it last month,” replied the clerk when asked about “Spice.”
But he told the CBS4 undercover reporter where he thought it could be found, “Orlando’s is the spot.”
Police reports show page after page of suspected synthetic marijuana that was discovered at the store in bags and boxes.
Police said the store remains open because it has to go through the nuisance abatement process in order to shut it down.