DENVER (CBS4) – The country’s largest ever settlement with a store owner selling the drug known as spice has been reached in Denver.
Spice is a synthetic drug that can have dangerous effects on users. The Denver store owner at the center of the settlement is no stranger to CBS4 investigators. Spice from that store was tested and it proved to be trouble.
A doctor at Denver Health Medical Center told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann the side effects of spice are very similar to what a person experiences while high on meth. Now the Denver pipe and tobacco store owner will have to pay a hefty fine for selling the illegal drug.
CBS4 first visited O’s Pipes and Tobacco in 2013. An undercover investigation brought CBS4 to the shop on East Colfax Avenue where a clerk showed one of their spice products. Not long after, shop owner Orlando Martinez was arrested by Denver police for possession with the intent to distribute synthetic marijuana.
Authorities recovered more than 1,300 packages of spice products from Martinez’s store with some testing positive for the synthetic cannabinoid linked to hospitalizations of 221 people.
“Those patients will come in very agitated, sometimes violent, needing to be sedated for their own protection and for the protection of those around them,” said Dr. Christopher Colwell, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Denver Health.
In 2014 Colorado’s attorney general filed a civil lawsuit against Martinez seeking a more than $2.6 million penalty for contributing to the illness outbreak and violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
“We have no idea, in many cases, what’s in it or what it’s made up of,” Colwell said.
Eighteen months later the largest civil settlement against a store owner for selling spice in the U.S. was reached. Martinez will pay $160,000 over the next three years.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman released a statement saying in part, “We will continue to be vigilant and ensure that store owners know they will face stiff penalties and the closure of their stores if they choose to sell dangerous spice products.”
Martinez declined to comment on the settlement.